Daniel MacDonald works at every Emergency Medical Service station in Athens County. He’s called a traveler, and he works where he is needed.
There are five stations: Athens, Coolville, Glouster, Nelsonville and Albany. He’s worked for five years as a paramedic, and he doesn’t think he will ever leave the industry.
He said the Athens County EMS station is his favorite because it is closest to O’Bleness Memorial Hospital and has the shortest transport time.
From Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2018, the Athens County EMS made 7,543 transports, according to data provided by ACEMS. 11 p.m. is the most common time for someone to call an ambulance, and 5 a.m. is the least common.
From data of all of the cities in Athens County, ACEMS made 654 transports for injury, the most common type of transport. The next most common was generalized weakness (482), followed by respiratory distress (479).
ACEMS transported people 111 times for alcohol use. 52 people were transported for “obvious death.”
“Obvious death is verbatim what it is. If you go to a car accident and someone has been decapitated. Gunshot wounds to the head. Decapitations. Those are obvious signs of death,” MacDonald said.
Seventy-one percent of people who call EMS are transported. MacDonald said that although most people are transported, the person can only choose to go if they are in the right state of mind. To determine this, the EMS paramedics will ask a series of questions such as their name, date of birth or who the president is.
“The bottom line of that is that we cannot force someone to go to the hospital. It’s kidnapping laws,” MacDonald said.
Sometimes patients will refuse to go to the hospital, Assistant Chief Amy Pyle said. She has worked in EMS for 35 years, starting as an emergency medical technician and eventually becoming a paramedic.
“Some (people may refuse) because they don’t believe they are sick enough to go to an emergency room, some because they want to go with their family or drive themselves and some because they do not have the money to pay for an ER visit,” Pyle said.
The city of Athens had more transports than all other cities in Athens County. Of the 2,835 calls in the city of Athens, 277 were for injury, the highest apart from cases where no reason was listed. There were 297 transport reasons left blank in the data set.
Deputy Chief Tami Wires said these “blanks” are because the information was not filled in by the patient or caregiver. She said it could also be because there was a change in where the data was collected from.
Wires said there are occasional glitches in the system and the document that the crews complete is not mapped correctly. When a blank is noticed, EMS will issue a correction, but it is not always caught.
In the data analysis, the blanks were not used in the averages and instead were taken out. They are accounted for, however, in any data analysis regarding the blanks and total runs.
The average distance an ambulance travels to transport someone is 7.88 miles. If an ambulance is called within the city of Athens, it will have to travel an average of 2.79 miles, likely to O’Bleness Memorial Hospital.
If someone calls an ambulance in Coolville, EMS will travel an average of 10.71 miles, the farthest average of all of the cities.
MacDonald said there are several issues with longer transport times.
“If someone is living 10 minutes away from the station and they are choking, you can only go a minute or two without losing consciousness,” MacDonald said. “The survivability of that is a lot lower than it is for a broken leg.”
A longer transport time is detrimental for survivability, but each case is different, he said.
Pyle said there are many factors that can affect the time it takes to transport a patient to the hospital. She said it’s hard to compare Athens County to other counties because of those factors, among others, which include:
- transport distance
- location of multiple hospitals within a small area
- absence or presence of heavy traffic
- multi-lane roads versus country highways
- township gravel roads
- the number of ambulances in a particular geographical location
- the number of officers they have
- volunteer versus paid services
“Too many factors create an apples-to-oranges comparison instead of apples to apples, and any data could give a person a skewed view of what is really happening,” Pyle said.
The Athens Unit 51 ambulance traveled 10,388.3 miles last year. The Nelsonville Unit 54 traveled the furthest at 13,745.7 miles. The Albany 55 Unit traveled the least at 3,958.8 miles.
Back roads also vary for how fast and far someone can travel in an amount of time. MacDonald said some back roads are narrow and straight, and ambulances can travel up to 15 miles above the speed limit and be fine. Closer to the city of Athens, however, there are curves and if the ambulance is speeding, there is a risk to flip it.
“A lot of times for back roads, we may not even drive lights and sirens,” MacDonald said. “The problem is with that is that people may not know how to respond. When it comes to back roads, we do what we can do.”
Of the 5,340 helicopter transports, 5,064 of them went to O’Bleness Memorial Hospital. 167 transports went to Marietta Memorial Hospital at Belpre, and 84 went to Camden Clark Medical Center in Parkersburg, West Virginia. ACEMS transported people to various “landing zones” 46 times to fly them to another location via helicopter.
“We have a very strict protocol. Certain events and situations require that we fly. Other times it is a judgment of our own,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald said that if they are close to Athens, they will likely take someone to the hospital and the hospital can fly them out.
The state of Ohio dictates what hospital someone goes to based on their needs, MacDonald said. If someone is having a confirmed heart attack, they must be flown.
MacDonald said that he chose to become a paramedic because after working several other jobs, he found that they were all too boring.
“I decided to give it a go, and I’ve been doing fire and EMS for about five years, and I don’t think I’ll ever leave this field,” MacDonald said. “There’s just nothing else like it.”