By the numbers
Forsyth County EMS alarm numbers:
* 2008: 8,191
* 2009: 8,142
* 2010: 8,580
* 2011: 8,798
* 2012: 9,824
* 2013: 7,458 (through Sept. 30); 10,500 (projected)
Forsyth County EMS average response times:
* 2009: 7:04 minutes
* 2010: 7:26 minutes
* 2011: 7:27 minutes
* 2012: 7:39 minutes
Source: Forsyth County Fire Department
Forsyth County hopes to slow an upward trend in emergency medical call response times by putting another ambulance into service.
The 2014 budget, adopted Thursday by the commission, includes an increase for the county’s contract with Advanced Ambulance to provide a seventh unit.
The need for another emergency ambulance was recommended following a study by the Forsyth County Fire Department earlier this year.
Fire Division Chief Jason Shivers, who authored the report, said the numbers supported the need for an additional unit.
“We’re responding to the increased call volume and growth of the county,” Shivers said. “We’re more frequently approaching the lower levels of service, which means longer response times.”
The study shows that calls for ambulance service have increased steadily from 2009 to 2012, from 8,142 to 9,824.
In those same years, the average response time rose 35 seconds, from 7:04 minutes to 7:39 minutes.
According to the county’s contract with Advanced Ambulance, emergency medical services must arrive within eight minutes of 90 percent of emergencies, a requirement the company has exceeded.
In 2012, the eight-minute threshold was met more than 98 percent of the time.
“While the purely contractual obligations are being met,” the study’s conclusion states, “… All factors suggest that requests for emergency medical services will continue to increase and the adding of a seventh ambulance would be a prudent approach to both reduce current response times and work load and prepare for the increased demands that can be expected.”
The increasing population and aging demographics likely contribute to those rising calls, according to the report.
The study also explores the impact of Unit 461, an ambulance owned by the private company that sometimes goes into service for Forsyth County due to the increased call volume.
Unit 461 responded to between 100 and 200 alarms each year between 2009 and 2012, according to the study.
However, Shivers said that unit isn’t part of the contract and could be anywhere at the time of an emergency.
The addition of a seventh ambulance under the contract will guarantee another unit in service for Forsyth County.
With the commission approval of the budget on Thursday, Advanced began the process of acquiring another ambulance and will start accepting applications for at least six people needed to staff it, said JB Owen, general manager.
The funding for the contract in the 2014 budget increased $180,000, or $15,000 per month, for Advanced to provide another ambulance, according to county figures.
The total in the approved budget is nearly $1.2 million, including the seventh unit and the 3 percent annual, contractual increase.
For this year, the county granted a one-time 5 percent increase on top of the annual raise at the company’s request. But the agreement reverts to the annual 3 percent increase in subsequent years, exclusive of the 2013-only hike.
Advanced Ambulance sought the increase to recoup debts being written off from indigent users, fuel costs that could no longer be absorbed and the use of Unit 461 for county service calls.
The county paid Advanced Ambulance about $957,000 for service in 2012. This year, the deal totaled a little more than $1 million.
Forsyth has hired a private ambulance company for at least 16 years and probably longer, Shivers said.
Both the fire department and contracted service respond to medical emergencies and can provide on-scene treatment, he said, but only the ambulance can transport patients.
“The longer the downtime is before you can be transported off site to a facility, the more chances your condition will deteriorate,” he said. “The quicker we can get an ambulance on scene to back up the fire department and carry the patient from the scene to the hospital … the more likely of a positive recovery for that patient.”