County reviews inaugural year with new emergency medical services

Forsyth contracts with Central EMS after slight mishap last year

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — After suddenly assuming the emergency medical services for Forsyth County, Central EMS is reflecting on the past year of success.

On January 13, 2016, the county’s renewal contract with Advanced Ambulance Service Inc., the county’s provider since 2008, was given a 24-hour notice by the company. The board voted to approve a contract with Central to assume emergency medical service beginning 9 a.m. Jan. 14, 2016.

Stuart Teague, the attorney for Advance Ambulance CEO Stan Rutledge, said the company wasn’t trying to shut down services for the county. The issue was simply economics. He said Central is a larger ambulance company with more resources to handle the growing county’s needs.

Founded in 1982 and one of the south’s largest privately-owned ambulance companies, Central has a 100-vehicle fleet, 50,000 patients annually and 350 employees. It has service locations in Roswell, Canton, Marietta, Athens and Atlanta, as well as in Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina.

There are 90 employees and seven vehicles that service Forsyth County.

Because of the time frame and necessity of Central starting its contract with the county, there was a 17 hour transition period, said Gary Coker, president of Central.

“We learned about this one afternoon and had to start operating at 9 a.m. the next morning,” Coker said. “I’ve never seen a transition, and of how many ambulances you needed here, in that short of a time frame.”

Central’s first-year goals included streaming the emergency system, increase training opportunities and improve data collection and quality improvement, Coker said.

“We wanted to grow what had been put in before,” he said. “We ran forward with it.”

The company can be judged on its reputation and response times, Coker said.

“Somebody can tell you, ‘this is what we’re going to do for you,’” he said. “But we’d like to show you what we have done.”

Since January 2016, the company was contracted to answer 90 percent of calls in eight minutes or less.

“That’s phenomenal for a county of your size,” Coker said.

For the entire year, Central exceeded that standard and had an average response time of 6 minutes, 20 seconds. In December, the company had its best month with 99.9 percent of the calls being answered in eight minutes or less. The slowest months, in comparison, January and July had 97.3 percent of calls answered in eight minutes or less.

Throughout the year, the company responded to 11,000 calls and transported 7,600 patients. November was the busiest in terms of calls responded to, with 1,073 responses. The month of May saw the most transportation of patients with 744 transports.

The company’s hospital turnaround time was less than 20 minutes on average. Central also had the fastest transfer times in metro Atlanta.

Outside of service, the company has been involved in the community by attending local events, working with the Forsyth County Explorers program and the annual Ghost Out event.

For 2017, the group is hoping to maintain its high system performance, create a comprehensive annual training calendar and implement new technologies and protocols.

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