EMS Board hears pleas for more ambulance units after citizens express first-hand experiences

Devine- Registered Nurse Misty Ramirez, understands the need for more ambulances because she has personally experienced close to an hour-long wait times for ambulances in the our local Medina County ESD 4 area. The fire chief also expressed an “absolute need” for another ambulance and crew after his first-hand experiences.
As of press time, we learned that just last night, Monday July 19, there was a resident needing CPR and we did not have an ambulance available here.

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“We had a CPR call, and it was only Devine Fire volunteers on scene for nearly 20 minutes before an out of district EMS unit could arrive on scene. There are times like last night where we several back to back calls and the EMS crews do a great job when they get there. It’s not the people–the problem is we do not have the number of ambulances and crews that are really needed.”
Board members heard from two citizens about concerns with response times and the need for a greater number of ambulances than is currently being used.
The Medina County ESD 4 Board of Directors is considering options for emergency medical ambulance services to provide care to residents of Devine, Natalia, and the southern part of Medina County. Taxpayers in those areas fund ESD 4’s services.
The big question each time contract renewal comes up is how many ambulances ESD 4 needs to effectively serve the needs of its district.
“I am a registered nurse,” Ramirez said. “I only call when it is a true emergency. My mother-in-law fell on the ice, my daughter broke her femur. It took up to or around 1 hour to get to us. My Grandma has a vest, has heart problems. Each and every moment lost could be devastating. Time is serious. It is something that needs to be addressed. Once time is lost it is lost. That is why I have come to you. We need a third ambulance. Please consider it.”
Devine VFD Fire Chief Greg Atkinson also addressed the Board.
“There is an absolute need for another ambulance and full time crew to be able to take care of the community,” Atkinson said.
“We recently just started running with Allegiance. We did that after a scene necessity of understanding how outstretched they were and hearing repeatedly ‘this person waited 10 minutes, this person waited 20 minutes, this person waited an 1 hour, this one 45 minutes.’ And so I am not a guy who just rushes into something, so we said hey let’s see if we can start assisting. So we did a proactive step and said okay let’s see if we can start helping process that a little faster by getting on the scene with them and possibly help assess the patient so when the ambulance gets there they are able to load and go, be able to take off a little faster and get patients to the hospital a little quicker.
“I would say this, I love Allegiance, I really do. They are a remarkably professional crew, their bedside manner is wonderful, we don’t always get that in an EMS system.
“I very much enjoy working with them. But I will tell you that in 96 calls we beat them to the scene in 45 of them. Sometimes it was because it was on our side of town. But of those 45 there was a 9.5 minute difference between us and them arriving on the scene. There are a lot of factors. But I will say this on the ones that are above 10 minutes, the ones that bring that average up, the ones that are 10, 11, 12, 15, 20 minutes it’s because they are coming back from another drop. You can almost see it in the reports where it’s a day where they have had 5, 6, 7, 8 calls and they just cant… you know anytime they transport to San Antonio it’s an hour to hour-and-a-half trip right? Well if two ambulances get 6 calls in that day, there is just no way they can respond. They just don’t have the abilities.
“Just yesterday, on Sunday, July 11 we had an incident at Teel and Benton in downtown, where an elderly man fell and got hurt, an elderly man, he hurt himself and we had to wait 45 minutes for an ambulance to come out of Lytle. And they had just come back off a run. I can account for 3 time myself in the past month where an ambulance had to come out of Hondo or Lytle or Atascosa County. My point is if you had a third ambulance, if you had a third bus here, it would benefit the people. From my stand point, I live here, my kids go to school here, my wife is here, we are Devine. When you start talking about the community there is absolute need for another ambulance and more crew to be able to take care of the community. I am not coming to you because I am the fire chief, it’s because my family lives here, it is a true community need, we need a third ambulance. Allegiance needs more help.”

After hearing presentations from two bidders, Allegiance Mobile Health and AMR ambulance services in executive session, the board of directors decided they need more information and have postponed the decision as they will be, “waiting for information to make the decision.”
Call volume, response time, cost, available resources, services provided, and available equipment are just some of the considerations ESD 4 Board members use to make their evaluations.
Time and time again, local first responders from multiple agencies have repeated that Allegiance EMS crews provide excellent service. The long calls are simply a result of the number of crews that ESD hires.
The next meeting will be on August 10.
ESD 4 Board members are Chairman Beth Leonesio, Vice Chairman Tony Martin, Secretary Viola Potter, Treasurer Billy Alvarado, and Asst. Treasurer Shelly Watson.
ESD 4 had $593, 303 in operating and savings and CD funds as of the June meeting report ($155,393 in operating account, $100,002 in savings, $237,283 in money market account, and $104,625 in a CD as of June meeting).
These funds are raised through a special tax solely to provide EMS service to our area. The ESD currently pays around $199,000 per year for EMS service, 2 ambulances. These are meant to cover the entire Devine and Natalia areas (city and rural).
The board has another large tax revenue allotment coming soon for this year’s taxes, and that amount is not known. However, it was projected to be over $412,105 according to an audit last year.
By Kathleen Calame