EMS Puts on the Miles Saving Lives

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – When Timberlands Healthcare abruptly pulled out of Crockett last year, a void was created for health care in Houston County. Houston County EMS, however, made it clear they were not going to go anywhere.

Since the hospital closure, the EMS crews have worked tirelessly to transport patients in need of medical care to places like Palestine, Huntsville, Tyler, Bryan Dallas and Houston.

“Every transport now has to go outside the county,” Houston County Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Coordinator Roger Dickey explained.

“This means they are working more and on the road more. It also means the ambulances are out of service for longer periods of time,” he said.

The reason the ambulances are out of service, Dickey explained, was because of travel time from Point A to Point B and then a return to Point A.

“It’s put a little bit of a hardship on things,” the fire marshal said.

“When Timberlands Healthcare was open, roughly 60 to 70 percent of our patients were transported there. Since then, all of our patients are transported out of the county,” Heath Bumpous, EMS Chief at Houston County EMS, said.

The EMS chief elaborated on the amount of time needed for EMS transport outside of the county.

“Before,” he explained, “that 60 to 70 percent, we were spending about 50 minutes per call on the ones we transported to Little River (Timberlands). Since Little River has closed we are averaging two hours of more per 911 call.”

Bumpous said the transports now went to “… Palestine, either hospital in Lufkin, as well as Huntsville. Anything in the Lovelady area goes towards Huntsville because it’s the closest and Trinity has closed down as well.”

“I will say I have been very impressed with the dedication and commitment of our first responder organizations. They have really stepped up to help as we have expanded our PRNs (as needed) and part-time staff,” Bumpous said.

He indicated if Crockett Medical Center is able to get an emergency room up and running in the near future, it will decrease the turnaround time for the EMS crews.

“The big thing is going to be – what capabilities will they have there? If it is more of a free-standing, many of our patients are not going to want to go there or if, for example, the call is cardiac-related and the patient’s cardiologist is in Lufkin, we are still going to honor the patients’ wishes about where to go,” he indicated.

Safety is another big concern for EMS crews, he said.

“Our company has some pretty high safety standards in order to insure the crews are not over-worked or worked past the point where they feel safe,” Bumpous said.

“I do know a local emergency room has the potential to help. However, I don’t know what the long-term solution is going to be,” he added.

Will Johnson may be reached via email at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.