Is Hancock County ambulance service properly equipped?

Hancock Co. ambulance service responds to Hamilton fire Jan. 3, 2012

It's been a month since a fatal fire in Hamilton displaced several families and businesses.

Five-month-old Jillian Lorigan died in that blaze.

The fire was so big that firefighters from Hamilton, Keokuk, Carthage and Warsaw responded to it.

Eighteen people had to be rescued from the burning building.

The Hancock County ambulance service also responded to that tragic fire.

The ambulance service was placed on a plan of correction the next day for not carrying a piece of equipment that could've made the difference between life and death.

The plan of correction states that there was not an ALS pediatric jump bag on the ambulance that responded to the Hamilton fire, according to a paramedic. But Hancock County Ambulance Service Director Perry Cameron says that's not true.

So there was one on the ambulance?

Cameron said, "Yes, but the person thought it was somewhere else. The pediatric jump bag was left on another rig. That doesn't mean that there wasn't pediatric equipment on that ambulance."

Dr. Kelly Cox serves as the EMS medical director for the Quincy area system, which includes Hancock, Brown, Adams and Pike Counties. He issued the plan of correction to the Hancock County Ambulance Service.

Cox said, "I make sure we're in compliance with the state rules and regulations, but we also ensure that the credentials of the staff are met; that they may have certain certification requirements and that they're maintaining their certification."

Is the Hancock County ambulance service negligent in receiving a plan of correction?

EMS Coordinator Kelly Cox said, "No. It's not uncommon to issue a plan of corrections to services because all that is is simply that--it's a plan, so that we're very clear on what the expectations are, and how we're going to meet those expectations."

What is a plan of correction?

Cox said, "We issue plan of corrections to agencies when we've identified areas that we think need to be improved upon. It's very simply that--it's a plan."

The plan of correction states that Hancock County's Ambulance Service's EKG monitors were only transmitting information to Blessing Hospital about 80 percent of the time. At first, Cameron, the manufacturers and cell phone companies blamed the problem on poor cell phone coverage in the rural parts of the county. But they recently discovered the modems were the problems.

Cameron said, "I did receive a modem back that we'd sent in for repairs, and it transmitted 95.8 percent at the time, so I think that has been corrected. If you've been in contact with the manufacturers of the modems and the monitors and U.S. Cellular, and they say everything is working right, what do you do at that point? That's where I was at, and we kept testing and trying different things. So it has been an ongoing thing."

The area's EMS System Coordinator also told the Hancock County Ambulance Service that it's failed to go to a paperless patient care report system as recommended in March of last year. That failure has resulted in 83 percent of the patient care reports being returned for corrections.

Cameron said, "We're addressing that problem. We just met with a company to do paperless forms and head in that direction."

The plan of correction also cited the fact that an unqualified crew member responded as a paramedic on an ALS ambulance call on January 2nd. He was removed later in the day.

Are people safe in Hancock County? Can they depend on their EMS?

Cameron said, "Yes, they can depend on their EMS. EMS is striving to move forward on continuous healthcare issues. We're leading the pack with Blessing as our medical control on some of the skills we do provide and some of the innovative ways we do things."

Would you say the people in the counties that you serve can depend on the EMS systems?

Cox said, "Absolutely. The foundation of our EMS system is the volunteers. These are the people that are doing this because they just want to help their communities. They aren't getting rich or paid. They're doing this because the community they live in, they want to serve and protect. I think it's important for people to understand that some of the negative press related to these services probably should be looked at better, because these people are volunteers. They're doing the best they can with finite resources."

Hancock County Ambulance Service Director Perry Cameron said if any resident has concerns and issues with the ambulance services to contact him at (217) 617-1911 or