Supervisors respond to complaints

By DEMETRIUS THOMPSON,

Longtime EMT and Decatur firefighter Karla Rushing voiced several complaints of the county’s first responders at the board of supervisors’ regular meeting on Monday. Rushing surveyed all of the county’s fire chiefs and dispatchers to prepare her report, which focused on the county’s first responders needs.

The report’s first proposal was to recommend a third dispatcher at the center at all times because of the increased call volumes over the past two years.

Right now, there are two dispatchers at the center at any time, but Rushing said that because residents call 911 for a variety of different reasons the two dispatchers at work often get overwhelmed.

The second proposal was that the 911 system be updated from its present outdated equipment. The board approved updating the system in 2016 and it is set to be installed by April 2018. However, Rushing said the dispatchers need the updates as soon as possible because the repeater system often drops calls and dispatchers often have to repeat information to responders several times.

The proposal also calls for all part-time dispatchers to be given the option of obtaining emergency medical dispatch certification training but that currently they are not compensated and reimbursed for travel for the courses.

Another main problem listed in the report was the need for more ambulances in the county. Currently, LifeCare Emergency Medical Services, which is contracted by the county to supply ambulance services, supplies three ambulances each day. Rushing said that since the Pioneer Hospital closed in Dec. 2015, patients have to be taken to Meridian or Jackson hospitals. Because of those long trips, most days that leaves the county without any ambulances and ambulances from Leake and Kemper County have to come and cover.

Rushing said there should be a full-time ambulance allocated for Newton County and also a day truck to cover non-emergency transfers.

“I just wanted you to be aware, because some things have got to change,” said Rushing.

At a board of supervisors meeting in January, First Line LLC, a patient transportation service based in Walnut Grove, proposed operating in Newton County as a non-emergency patient transportation service and possibly as a backup service to Life Care EMS. Representatives from Life Care, who also attended the meeting, were completely opposed to having two services in the same county, citing that it has never worked in the state before.

Board President Joe Alexander said he agreed with most of the proposals and that the board will try to get the improvements done as soon as possible.

The board also spoke with Operations Manager Leigh Ann Magee in August about ambulance shortages in the county.

“I’m not any happier today than the day they came,” Alexander said.

In other business, County Engineer Duane Stanford told the board that the bridge on Newton-Calhoun Road had been closed due to its wooden pilings being deemed unsafe. A reroute has been posted on the road.