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May 30, 2012

Location key in ambulance site discussion

“When seconds count,” one bumper sticker around Logansport said a few years ago, “count on professional firefighters.”

That was a subtle way of saying that full-time firefighters employed by the city of Logansport are trained people with one mission — to serve the public and protect lives.

The same phrase could apply to professional ambulance personnel. When an ambulance is dispatched to any area of the county, the clock starts running on what medical personnel call “The Golden Hour” when they are most likely to save a patient from death.

It could be a heart patient who needs a portable defibrillator treatment in a hurry, an unconscious child just pulled from a pool or the river or a COPD patient gasping for breath.

Those seconds can be as much a difference between life and death as the best hospital, the best surgeon or the best insurance.

That’s why county officials who have negotiated the privatization of ambulance service should consider the relocation of the ambulances with some caution. There’s nothing wrong with farming out ambulance services to a private firm. Many other Indiana counties have already done it. Ironically, it’s a sign that ambulance services have come full circle from a time 50 years ago when local ambulance services were provided by the private sector: local funeral homes.

But potentially moving the central location of ambulances in the county from Logansport Memorial Hospital could only add seconds to most ambulance calls. That move could happen because the hospital is converting an ambulance garage into space that will house two auxiliary generators the hospital will need to maintain its accreditation. The move is expected to save the hospital $180,000, but how much will it cost the city and county in lives if ambulances are moved further away from state highways, other main arteries and the center of the community’s population? That’s a question nobody can answer.

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