ProMed Ambulance was able to improve its response time to calls in the Hamburg area over the last year, but is still going to be focusing on getting the word out about available positions in order to deepen its workforce.
That was part of the message ProMed Chief Executive Officer Ken Kelley had as part of his annual report for 2022.
“We have got to find ways to encourage people who are looking for a career path, who want to get into health care but don’t know what they want to do,” Kelley said. “(Emergency Medical Services) is a good entry point because you get to see all the segments of health care.”
The EMS industry is having a problem getting that word out across the state Kelley said, telling Hamburg City Council that the company has been forced to go to what is known as an A-B schedule — “basically working half of the time” — because of open and vacant positions.
“It has some wear and tear on the ambulance crew,” he said.
Even under those circumstances, however, the average response time for ambulances in 2022 was six minutes, two seconds in Hamburg city limits, an improvement over six minutes, 47 seconds the year before and close to two minutes better than the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services Standard of seven minutes, 59 seconds.
On the scene, the average medical call was 16 minutes, 16 seconds, and the average trauma call was 13 minutes, 42 seconds.
“Performance wise, we are very pleased with our crews that operate here in Hamburg and Ashley County,” Kelley said. “They have done a lot of training throughout this last year, things that we had kind of put on hold because of COVID. They are much happier doing something than wondering about when the next phase of the pandemic is going to hit.
One thing ProMed will do in the coming year is to train using a community paramedic grant, which allows paramedics to go visit certain patients – for example, stroke patients – to work with them in limited capacities to reduce factors that might send them back to the hospital. The paramedics would do the visits when they aren’t responding to calls, and the $25,000 grant means that there’s no cost for their education and that the cost of getting the program up and running is offset, Kelley said.
In ongoing challenges, Kelley told the council that fuel costs saw a 42 percent budget overrun because of inflation in 2022, and that national backorders and rationing of critical supplies and medications continues.
Another issue that played into his report is bed availability. Beds have been tight because of a surge in respiratory illnesses, a trifecta of COVID, flu and RSV that Kelley said he had simply given the shorthand name “COVID III”.
“We were alerted by the hospital association in August that from October until now that the hospital bed availability in Arkansas was going to be very tough, that we were going to be moving patients longer distances to find a bed.”
Because of that, the transport destination for ProMed patients was 36 percent to Ashley County Medical Center; 9 percent to Chicot Memorial Medical Center; 8 percent to Drew Memorial Medical Center; 6 percent to Medical Center of South Arkansas; and 41 percent to other destinations.
Those other destinations were where a bed could be found for patients, including as far away as Baton Rouge, La., Kelley said.
In 2021, 55 percent of all transports were to ACMC; 11 percent to CMMC; 16 to DMMC; 9 percent to MCSA; and 9 percent to other destinations.