By AUTUMN HUGHES
By AUTUMN HUGHES
The number of calls to Bradley County Emergency Services continues to rise, highlighting a need for more EMS personnel and vehicles to serve the community.
Meeting with the Bradley County Commission’s Emergency Services Committee on Friday, EMS Director Shawn Fairbanks discussed the call volume as well as staffing, equipment and infrastructure needs.
Fairbanks said in the past 20 years, the call volume has increased by 120 percent.
“Every year we have an increase,” he said, adding increase has caught up “to the capacity of what we can run. I need more people on the road.”
In January 2018, there were 149 fire calls and 1,970 EMS calls in Bradley County. Fairbanks said the department averages 2,300 calls per month.
“That’s a lot for a month with seven trucks,” he said.
Discussing staffing, Fairbanks said Bradley County EMS used to have a 24-hour schedule, but that was changed due to overtime rules, cutting shifts to eight hours.
As an alternative, Fairbanks suggested adopting a 24/48 schedule, with employee working a 24-hour shift then being off duty for 48 hours.
“It’s no different than what the fire departments in Cleveland and Bradley County work every day,” Fairbanks said.
He added “nobody likes change,” but they have to do what’s best for the people of Bradley County.
Emergency Service Committee Chairman Johnny Mull asked if there are other counties and communities on the 24/48 schedules.
Fairbanks said there are, and added the head of a neighboring EMS organization called him for information about switching from 24/48 shifts to eight-hour shifts. He couldn’t recommend making that change.
Fairbanks told the committee he supports going to a 24/48 schedule with currently enough staff to run nine trucks.
He also discussed his EMS staffing proposal, which he said is “up in the air” until he hears from the County Technical Advisory Service which is reviewing the department’s salary and wage information. He expects to get the information from CTAS on Tuesday for discussion at another committee meeting.
In regard to infrastructure, Fairbanks said roof repairs have been made to the EMS Center on Paul Huff Parkway, but he noticed a leak on Thursday that must be addressed.
“We budgeted $7,000 to fix the roof.” The repair cost so far is approximately $1,100, Fairbanks said. With the remaining money, and with Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis’ approval, Fairbanks said he would like to begin working on some small improvement projects.
Bradley County Commissioner Charlotte Peak, who is supervising the work at the facility, said the center was built in 1990-1991 is “outdated.” It needs carpet, a heat and air unit, and other repairs and updates. Peak has been getting individual quotes for the work at the center.
In other business:
• Fairbanks said the new International truck has arrived and will be stationed at the Paul Huff Parkway station. Also, the third new EMS truck should arrive soon and will be stationed at the Dooley Street station.
• Fairbanks said Bradley County EMS has become compliant with Medicare rules related to Advanced Beneficiary Notification forms. The ABN forms are required if a patient doesn’t meet Medicare’s definition of medical necessity to use an ambulance. EMS will still transport patients, but the patient must sign the ABN form to acknowledge they may be billed for the transport if Medicare refuses to pay. Being faced with signing the ABN form has caused some patients to decide to use private transportation rather than EMS, he added.
Fairbanks emphasized the ABN form is a Medicare requirement and there has been a learning process for all parties involved.
County Mayor Davis, who attended the committee meeting, agreed, noting Medicare — not Bradley County EMS — makes the decision as to whether to pay for Medicare patients’ transports.
Committee member Thomas Crye said he has had to sign the ABN form in relation to his own medical treatment.
“It’s nothing but a paper trail,” he said.
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