Pre-hospital emergency care remains the first priority for Starke County EMS, but it is not their only charge. The Starke County Commissioners reaffirmed that mission statement during their meeting Monday night. A recent Facebook posting about a lack of available county ambulance service due to transfers between facilities prompted the discussion.
Commissioner Kathy Norem says the service has contractual guidelines with IU Health Starke Hospital.
“We don’t do out of the county non-emergent transfers. We do emergent transfers out of the county. Emergency is defined by the physician. They’re the captain of the ship, and they’re the ones that say ‘this is an emergency transfer’.”
President of the Commissioners Kent Danford oversees EMS. He says they have always provided emergency transfers, and the revenue generated from doing so sustains the service without placing an undue burden on the county.
Starke County has EMS bases in North Judson, Knox and Grovertown. Director Keith Emigh says there have been a few occasions when more than one ambulance has been out of the county at a time on a transfer. For instance, if Medic 5, which is based in Grovertown, is coming back from Plymouth, and the county is called on for an emergency transfer to another facility, two trucks may briefly be out of the county. As of Monday, Emigh says Medic 3, which is stationed in Knox, has run 33 life-and-death transfers. He adds it’s possible to have two rigs on calls at any given time due to any type of emergency call, leaving only one truck for county-wide coverage.
Emigh and the commissioners note all of the township volunteer fire departments have first responders with various levels of advanced medical training. That program was set up to provide a more immediate medical response until an ambulance can arrive and EMTS and paramedics can take over care as necessary. Emigh adds the statewide average response time for EMS is 18 minutes. The Facebook message thread claimed a response time of 15 minutes due to an ambulance being out of the county and a truck having to come from another base. Emigh says first responders were there within four minutes of being notified.