Emergency Medical Services To Change

Seven or eight minutes could mean life or death when waiting for an ambulance to reach you.  Response time is just one thing that could be changing in emergency medical care around the panhandle region.

The change can be good or bad, depending on where you live.

Once under the direction of Northwest Texas Hospital, emergency services will soon become the responsibility of the Panhandle Regional Advisory Council.

For some areas, like Panhandle, that means changes in how fast an ambulance gets to you.  The city's EMS Director, Terry Coffee, says"we've gotten a little bit better with our communications as far as response times. We started experimenting with cell phones, paramedics at night getting paged on their cell phones and it was actually quicker, so now we're paged out of the sheriff's office."

Before, they were paged out of an Amarillo call center.  Coffee says that equals an average response seven to eight minutes quicker, enough to determine survival.

But in Claude, concerns are rising over the change in medical control that allows ambulance services to operate under a physician's license, something they will no longer have under northwest, and cannot get in town because there is no hospital.  Without that license, they cannot administer emergency medical care.

Claude's EMS Service Director, Branda Whitley, says the concerns are "where our protocol's gonna come from, are we going to have online as well as offline medical direction, how are we going to contact other services for mutual aid."

The Regional Advisory Council, though, is working on it.

Teri Cook, the Executive Director, says "we feel like we'll be able to put together a program to receive all of the medical oversight protocols that the need to do good patient care."

Another concern for medical services is money.  But Cook says RAC will help all of the areas with that through grants the council receives.

The change from Northwest to RAC is effective August 1.