I belong to a Volunteer Rescue Squad which is part of a Volunteer Fire Department. Over the past 2 years we have had a paid ambulance service come in and handle daytime calls, due to our members not being around during the day to get the ambulance out if a rescue call came in.
Okay that is a little information so you understand how this went down. We had an EMS call this morning, so the paid ambulance was out on that call. As I was walking into the post office we were dispatched, along with a backup ALS unit, for a possible stroke at a residence in our town. I went to the firehouse and got the rig. I waited for another crew member and was informed by my Rescue Squad Captain to respond in and she would meet me at the scene. I had another member call in and report on the scene but he wasn’t able to go to the hospital, as he had to go to a college class. When I got on the scene I took the stretcher and crash bag and went into the apartment.
I was given a report by the patient’s home health aide that she had fallen out of bed last night and hit her head; the patient presented with a contusion on her head. The patient is also a diabetic, and her blood sugar (tested by her aide as I arrived) was 368. According to the aide the patient’s blood sugar is always erratic. The patient also has an inoperable brain aneurism, so the fact that she struck her head during the night was making me a little concerned. The patient also was having blurred vision and dizziness, and weakness on the left side. The patient’s blood pressure was within normal limits.
I was about to start getting the patient ready for transport when my Captain came in. I gave her a quick report, asked if she could go to the hospital, and told her that I could also go. She informed me that she could go, and then asked where the medic unit was. I told her I didn’t know, and she went to find out. She came back in and told me the medic unit was advising they were approximately five minutes out. When I said “let’s get the stretcher and get going” I was told “no”; that we could wait for the medic unit and they could transport the patient. I was in shock and disbelief that we were waiting for the other unit and not meeting them en route. I was not happy with the decision but was over ruled by my officer. The medic unit came and we loaded the patient into their rig and off they went ALS with the patient.
As I was getting ready to turn my rig around my captain stopped me and explained that the reason she turned the call over to the other unit was that the patient’s insurance company wouldn’t pay the bill if the medic came in our rig, but would pay if the patient went in their rig.
I questioned her about it in disbelief and told her she needed to get that whole idea out of her head. She insisted that she couldn’t have it where the patient gets sent a bill and has to pay the bill because the insurance company won’t. I gave up trying to get an explanation or getting the point across to her that the billing with the insurance company doesn’t matter.
This upsets me because this same officer has recently discussed us taking back more daytime shifts from the paid service and yet here was a call we handed over to them. Would we have done a meet and assist? Yes for sure. That still doesn’t mean we give the call totally to them. How does this make us as the volunteer squad look to the public? Not good in my eyes. I am at the point of, why are we here as a volunteer squad, if we are going to turn the patients over to the paid service for transport. I just don’t understand and feel that waiting for the other unit is delaying care to the patient. That’s wrong, by any training I’ve had…and if something happens while we’re waiting, then we could be in trouble over the fact that we waited to transport.