WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Hancock County Ambulance Crew Mistakes Continue

Jun 5, 2012

Ambulance crews in Hancock County are still suffering too many mistakes  despite operating under a “Plan of Corrections” for months to address them.

The Blessing Hospital EMS Director says that must stop.

Dr. Kelly Cox oversees ambulance services in Hancock, Adams, Brown and Pike counties. He has considerable latitude under state law to remedy the situation. He can suspend the licenses of EMTs who are not doing the job well. He could even suspend the county-wide service. He could also suggest the Illinois Department of Public Health issue fines.

He hopes to avoid such drastic action.

Recent lapses include giving aspirin to a patient who was allergic to it because an ambulance crew member failed to ask about drug allergies. Another crew member didn't know which buttons to push to operate a monitor. Equipment inspection logs for the ambulances include signatures where the names are misspelled, indicating someone else filled out the form

The county board has been reluctant to fire any EMTs as the reduction in staff might mean the loss of Advanced Life Support service if staff levels drop.

Cox says that whatever means are used, some staff members need to change their attitudes.

He says, “If the only solution we can develop for that individual is removal of that individual which may result in out-of-service time for that ALS unit, then that will have to be a temporary solution.”

Cox says the county might have to contract with another ALS provider to cover the gap until new EMTs are hired.

The county also has a convoluted chain-of-command. It involves the county board, the county's Health and Miscellaneous committee, an EMS board, the Warsaw Ambulance Board, an ambulance coordinator and the administration of Carthage Memorial Hospital.
Cox says, “You have to have one person that ultimately is accountable for the agency. That can make the decisions but also has the authority to implement the decisions.”

The county board has moved in that direction. It recently gave county Ambulance Coordinator Perry Cameron the authority to discipline and fire employees. He's been on the job for  two years.

Lisa Weeks is an EMT in Warsaw who feels Cox's intervention is timely. She says crews don't always feel their voice is heard.

She says,”He's our 'medical control.' We function under him and just having his support means the world to us on the front line.”

The situation does not include the ambulance services in LaHarpe or Nauvoo which are separate from the rest of the county.