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Need LTC transport? Don’t dial 911

September 10, 2013
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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Ambulance crews are on call for emergency medical services (EMS) and hospital transport at all hours, but in many cities, the local EMS vans also are used for moving long-term care (LTC) residents to and from care sites. The double-duty of local ambulance services can cause long wait-times for LTC residents, who will be transported only if an ambulance is idle. Likewise, non-emergency transports to LTC facilities may take an ambulance too far afield to respond to an emergency elsewhere in town.

Burke County, North Carolina, solved the problem by dedicating a transport vehicle solely to moving the county’s LTC residents from place to place, including to local hospitals, notes an article in the (Morganton, N.C.) News Herald. The county’s new “convalescent van” had been designed as a medical services vehicle, but is smaller than a standard ambulance. The van will be staffed by two emergency medical technicians.

Local hospitals and healthcare providers say the dedicated transport also will eliminate overcrowding in the emergency rooms and logjams in patient admitting, since having to rely on whatever ambulance transport was available had not allowed hospitals to schedule admissions or treatments. 

“This caused a patient back-up in the emergency department where patients who had been admitted had to wait on an empty bed,” Kathy Bailey, president and CEO of Blue Ridge HealthCare, told the News Herald. “Sometimes it was very late before we could get a LTC patient transferred and they wouldn’t have time to get oriented and comfortable before bed time. Our patients and families expressed their displeasure at the long wait times.”

The new service began this week. The dedicated vehicle and staff will add a continuity to the resident-transfer process while reducing wait-times and reserving the local ambulances for true emergencies, county leaders said.