Ambulance manager: ER issues delay response times, cost money

Published 10:33 pm Tuesday, August 8, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The manager of American Medical Response ambulance service in Natchez is calling out Merit Health for its emergency room understaffing.

Tim Houghton, operations supervisor at AMR Natchez, said his ambulance personnel and vehicles waited “on the wall” in the emergency room at Merit Health Natchez for 159 hours and 35 minutes when no bed was available or no ER staff was available to accept patients AMR brought in.

He said during July, nine patients were flown “from the field” straight to other facilities as a result of those delayed times in accepting patients at the hospital here.

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“That relates to our hospital delays we have been tracking for nine months and reporting to this board,” Houghton said. “That impacted 39 emergency responses that came in from 911. That’s actually down from last month. We had over 121 last month that were impacted from 911 as a result of it. The only reason it’s down is because I am basically keeping a full-time crew tied up at that hospital, watching patients on our gurneys because they can’t get off the gurneys and onto an ER gurney.”

Houghton said he has a meeting scheduled for Aug. 14 with Merit Health’s new CEO of the Natchez hospital, Kevin Samrow.

“If you’ll notice at the bottom of your sheet today, I’ve got the actual Mississippi annotated code that I’m fixing to be quoting and talking to him about, which references that they shall clear those ambulances for E-911 response within 30 minutes of arrival,” he said. “If I add all their times up right now, their average time to clear a gurney is 35 minutes and 39 seconds, so they are five minutes and 39 seconds over on average, and the longest time that we had a truck tied up there is eight and a half hours with one patient on an EMS gurney.

“So the CEO and I will be talking about that in that meeting. He’s brand-new. I’m hoping we can get some headway with that. I know they’ve had a lot of turnover over there, but we are at the point where I am staffing people to take care of patients in the ER and that’s costing me between $20,000 and $30,000 a month to do and I’m not going to keep bearing that bill. They need to staff up.”

Houghton said his top priority is meeting times for responses for emergency calls dispatched from 911.

During July, he said his office received 329 requests for E-911 service. From those calls, 230 were transported.

In other business Monday morning, county supervisors:

• approved a burn ban in Adams County through Aug. 31.

• heard a complaint from Lolita Jackson Moore about what she called poor treatment of her son in the Adams County Jail. Her son is accused of murder and was the alleged ringleader of the recent security breach at the Adams County Jail.

• In a meeting out of recess later in the day, the supervisors approved a pay increase for election workers from $125 to $200 per day.