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White County EMS Trying To Avoid Tying Up Units In Cookeville

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
White County EMS Trying To Avoid Tying Up Units In Cookeville

White County EMS exploring a policy change to allow ambulances to take patients elsewhere when Cookeville Regional has long ER waits.

EMS Director Mike Kerr said those picked up by ambulance have the right to choose which hospital to visit, so long as it borders White County. Kerr said CRMC wait times are often well over an hour.

“We’ve got a truck that goes to Cookeville Regional that’s waiting an hour, hour and a half, and then we pick up someone else in the county with the only truck that’s left and they want to go to Cookeville,” Kerr said. “And we know we’ve already got a truck there that’s waiting, been there 30-40 minutes and still hasn’t gotten to offload. We want to be able to tell them no.”

He said they need the authority to avoid sending ambulances to wait at Cookeville Regional when the rest of the county needs them available. Kerr said the authority would only be used when they know Cookeville Regional’s Emergency Room is facing substantial wait times.

Kerr said they wanted to alert commissioners of the prospective change before making the change.

“Typically, it’s, you know, people don’t understand,” Kerr said. “It’s, ‘I want to go there because that’s where my doctors are.’ Well, they don’t see their doctors when they go into the hospital, they see a hospitalist. They want their family doctor or whoever their cardiologist is. They’re going to get whoever is on-call. They have that misunderstanding that because that’s where their doctors are, that’s where they need to go.”

He said, theoretically, they could unload someone from an ambulance and leave them at Cookeville Regional to get the ambulance back to White County, but that is not quality patient care, so a better solution is needed.

“Every hospital we’re going to, they ask why we’re there,” Kerr said. “You know, why did you bring that patient here?”

Kerr said officials at Cookeville Regional have said they expect to have the wait times sorted out, but he said it is an issue White County has been dealing with for four years.

Kerr said hospitals operate with a “1,000-foot” rule. Any patient that comes within 1,000 feet of a hospital becomes a patient of that facility.


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