ST. GEORGE – Response times, violent calls and appropriate physician oversite were among the topics discussed as Gold Cross Ambulance presented its first annual report to City of St. George officials Friday.
Gold Cross president Mike Moffitt presented the report to the Ambulance Service Compliance Committee, which is chaired by St. George Fire Department Battalion Chief Robert Hooper and includes representatives from St. George Fire Department, St. George Police Department, the St. George Communications Center and Intermountain Healthcare.
While it’s important for an ambulance to get to a patient as soon as possible, it can be dangerous for paramedics to arrive before other emergency responders – for example, if there’s an active fire or violent situation.
After much discussion, the committee agreed to come up with specific guidelines for when ambulances would wait nearby and when it would be OK for an ambulance to arrive before law enforcement or fire personnel.
Another issue that has come up is the requirement that Gold Cross employ a licensed physician with a specialization in emergency care, City Attorney Shawn Guzman said. Section 3-2F of the city code states that the physician “shall practice within and have privileges at a hospital emergency room located within the city and practice within the city.” The medical control physician ensures compliance with state regulations, develops protocols and oversees training.
The former medical control physician moved out of town and a new one was hired. Gold Cross’s new physician lives in Cedar City but has privileges in St. George, Guzman said. He is not really practicing in the local emergency room.
“The concern expressed by the council at the time when we were negotiating this language is that we wanted someone intimately familiar with the workings and operations of our emergency room here,” Guzman said.
Being in a larger, more fast-paced city, the St. George emergency room may well operate differently than an emergency room in Cedar City, Guzman said, and it is also common for different hospitals to have different protocols.
Guzman asked Moffitt to explain how the new physician qualifies under the ordinance, and Moffitt said he will find out how many cases the physician is seeing and how many hours worked in St. George.
The ambulance company’s average compliance was 95.49 percent, Moffit reported, above the required threshold of 90 percent.
St. George’s city code requires that ambulances arrive on the scene of high-priority calls within eight minutes. For less serious calls, 12 minutes is the maximum.
Gold Cross now employs 45 people and has eight fully-equipped ambulances in addition to a Polaris Ranger equipped for off-road and event use. Five ambulances are in service almost every day, Moffitt said, and additional backup is available in the form of supervisors and support staff who are certified emergency medical technicians.
Two new ambulance stations were added in 2015, one at 267 E. 1400 South and the other at 314 N. 3050 East, Moffit said.
Representatives from the Fire Department, Gold Cross and the hospital are now working together to make sure public safety is a priority, City Council and committee member Ed Baca said.
“That’s the triad you want to see. We want to make sure citizens feel safe and comfortable with the level of service, and I think that’s been accomplished,” Baca said.
Gold Cross was awarded an ambulance license for St. George in 2013, a move that was hotly contested by Dixie Ambulance, which went out of business as a result.
In November 2014, the City Council approved an ordinance governing ambulance service and an accompanying dispatch agreement between the St. George Communications Center and Gold Cross Ambulance.
In July of 2015, Gold Cross employees threatened to strike over wages and working conditions.
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