Ambulance dispatchers bring concerns to board

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Dec. 19, 2000
While Lauderdale County supervisors ponder a proposed solution to an E-911 Commission dispatcher shortage, they are also considering Metro Ambulance dispatchers' concerns about E-911 consolidation.
Dispatch supervisor Bill Eggleston, dispatcher Laurie Robinson and operations manager Johnny Williamson brought their issues before the board of supervisors at a work session.
Eggleston said because Metro dispatchers are Emergency Medical Dispatch certified, they must by law stay connected with a person having an emergency until the ambulance arrives. One call might take 20 minutes, and while that dispatcher is tied up, another dispatcher must get the ambulance en route, he said.
He said 85 percent of Metro's calls are non-emergencies, but even non-emergencies are time consuming. A non-emergency might be a patient transport from a nursing home to a hospital or from a Meridian hospital to a Jackson hospital. A dispatcher must record all the patient information so they can give it to the staff who will receive the patient.
The problem with putting non-emergencies on hold is that those calls are from paying customers doctors, clinics and hospitals which generates much of Metro's revenue, Eggleston said.
District 3 Supervisor Craig Hitt said the board will consider Metro dispatchers' concerns. He said smoothing out the new system if the proposal passes will "take some time," but he said he thinks it will work.
It would be set up to have four to five dispatchers on each shift, which would give all cross-trained dispatchers the time they need on medical calls. He said all dispatchers were to become EMD certified as part of the cross-training.
He also said a portion of Metro's dispatchers were to remain at their dispatch center to handle Metro's non-emergency calls. That would mean only their emergencies would come through E-911 about 210 calls each month, according to Metro's figures.
Metro Ambulance Director Clayton Cobler declined to comment for this story.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at