Is Clarke County Rural or Urban?

Good afternoon Alexia, Lee, and Blake. I would like to respond to the rural versus urban question that National EMS has brought up. Athens-Clarke County is overwhelmingly an urban county. Clarke County is designated an urban county by the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Center for Health Statistics, Rural Health Information Hub, Health Resources Services Administration, Rural Health Research Center, Core Based Statistical Analysis, Rural Urban Commuting Code, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to name a few. This rural coding applies to every zip code in Athens-Clarke County. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sets up the “Ambulance Fee Schedule” which reimburses rural ambulance calls at a higher mileage rate than urban calls. Is National EMS saying that they are billing Medicare and Medicaid for a significant number of rural calls in Athens-Clarke County? If so, this may need to be looked at by federal investigators familiar with Medicare and Medicaid fraud. If not, why are they making this claim?

It seems to me that these unsubstantiated claims are designed to confuse, conceal, and distract. This is a company that is terrified of transparency and refused for over 5 years to release their 911 response time data. They refused even when asked by Commissioners Nesmith and Herod for over 15 months. We had to hire an attorney and file a State Open Records Request with the Georgia Department of Public Health to obtain the data. Through this state open records request we have discovered what they have been hiding.

Now they are making claims about their terrible “911 Emergency Response” times that they refuse to back up with independent verification of their data. They even refuse to answer the simplest question regarding what kinds of 911 calls their company routinely downgrades. Until National EMS backs up their claims with independently verifiable data, their claims need to be challenged and held in doubt. I think Blake Aued is correct in saying that the only way we will find the truth is through an independent audit of the data.

What we are asking:

Response times to 911 emergencies is a matter of public safety. Athens for Everyone continues to pursue openness and better response times. In the name of transparency, we ask National EMS to release its full data from the 31,055 calls that exceeded the response time standard between 2014 and 2017. We are demanding an open audit of these calls, to include the nature of the 911 emergency, the zone in which these 911 calls originated and the location from which the ambulance responded. We also ask for a full accounting of all the 911 call types that National EMS routinely downgrades to Priority 2 (no lights and sirens).

Athens for Everyone believes that reliable, transparent EMS is a public health issue.  To address long EMS response times, we continue to demand the following:

  1. That all 911 medical calls be handled through our 911 Athens-Clarke County Dispatch Center. This would immediately increase transparency and increase the time efficiency of 911 call response.
  2. That the ambulance service in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, be a public service run through our fire department. If this public safety service remains under (for profit) private control, we demand the EMS provider run separate 911 and non-emergency transport divisions.
  3. That National EMS immediately stop abandoning 911 coverage zones to run non-emergency transports.

 

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