AMR faces slow response time in Harrison County due to COVID-19

While AMR officials detailed what is leading to the slow response times, they also mentioned solutions and ideas to fix the problem.
Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 6:05 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - A tourist from Jacksonville, Florida didn’t expect to suffer from cardiac issues during his stay at the Beau Rivage, and he wasn’t expecting EMS to take about 30 minutes before arriving at the scene.

It was just one of a couple of instances discussed at the Harrison County Board of Supervisor’s meeting with representatives of the area’s ambulance service present.

In response to the Jacksonville tourist, AMR officials said that a hospital system in overload due to COVID-19 was the reason for the delayed response.

Paramedics are also feeling the impacts of the delta variant firsthand.

“We got brave men and women on the streets every day picking up COVID patients. Right now, a huge increased number of COVID patients,” said AMR Regional Director Dwayne Tullos.

With hospitals near or at capacity, AMR officials said their paramedics have to stay with their patients for longer spans of time at drop-off zones while they wait for rooms to open up. This leads to more time waiting and less time being out in the field.

“We are seeing some huge wait times right now waiting for a hospital to get a bed open. That 15 minutes has turned into hours a lot of times,” Tullos said.

It’s one of the many issues AMR faces right now as emergency calls and response times increase.

Officials said staffing shortages, long travel distances and increasing transfers all led to June’s average response time of 12 minutes and 21 seconds for priority one emergency calls.

“It stresses the system as a whole,” Tullos said.

Other first responders said it’s even worse on their end. Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson said at the meeting he went to dispatch to log issues for the last week of medical first responders being late to an emergency.

“Every single day I’ve gotten a phone call. It’s either an hour, hour and a half, or no response at all,” Peterson said. “We’re in a position where we don’t have a choice but to fix it.”

While AMR officials detailed what is leading to the slow response times, they also mentioned solutions and ideas to fix the problem.

“We do have things in place. We are trying to work day and night,” AMR EMS Chief Billy Shipp said.

Along with more than $1 million for raises and retention, AMR is partnering with MGCCC, Gulfport High, Long Beach High and Pass Christian High schools with the hopes of the next generation filling their vacancies.

“Our deployment, we would love it to be around 15 to 20 trucks every day during the day. Right now, we are running around 13 to 14,” Shipp said.

AMR is also welcoming 12 new personnel and a new full-time paramedic to the force. Once they are all approved and able to be in the field, officials hope they will help lower response times soon.

“It could take anywhere from two to four weeks,” Shipp said.

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