COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The frequently occurring shortage of ambulances in Columbus came to light this week, after Fire and EMS responders rushed an infant to the hospital in a fire truck, instead of wasting precious time waiting for an ambulance.
Sadly that baby passed away, raising some confusion about first responder policy in the Fountain City.
"The sheer number of EMS calls that have increased in the past ten years...has been tremendous," said Fire Marshal Ricky Shores.
An influx of people calling 911 for medical attention has put an ever-growing strain on the pool of ambulances in the Fountain City. For a city with a population of more than 200,000, Columbus has ten ambulances, but a much higher number of trained first responders.
The expanse of their job is in their name, Columbus Fire and EMS, and with ambulance levels reaching zero at some point almost every day, that could mean a big red fire engine is responding to medical emergencies.
"All our field personnel are EMT's and many of them are paramedics," said Shores.
So, whether they arrive in a red and boxy-ambulance or a red and bulky fire truck, those in crisis will be getting the same care, often from the same men and women, who work on both. The difference comes in the fact that engines have no room to transport patients, so on-the scene care must continue until an ambulance arrives.
"They have the equipment and the knowledge to get the level of care that the patient needs as quickly as possible. Obviously, we can get a fire truck to your house a lot quicker than we can an ambulance by the fact that there are a lot more fire trucks in the city," said Shores.
First responders say the solution isn't so easy. They explain, if you add more ambulances, there's a chain of care that must also grow, like hospital staff to take in transported patients when they arrive at the ER.
Another issue is the fact that some people may call 911 when they aren't experiencing a true medical emergency. If someone calls 911 solely to act as a type of taxi service, that could be preventing someone in crisis from getting quicker transportation.