Emergency response delays can lead to more serious injury and, in some instances, death. Emergency medical professionals and other first responders are increasingly failing to arrive at the scene of medical problems in a timely manner. This is a complex problem with several underlying causes including staffing shortages, lack of resources, and funding problems.
Late-Arriving Ambulances a Far-Reaching Problem
The problems plaguing the EMS industry have been around for several decades, but recent tragedies involving emergency response delays have shed new light on their impact.
In the summer of 2018, a woman was enjoying time in her Georgia yard when a wasp stung her. When she showed signs of an allergic reaction, her family called for emergency help. Unfortunately, help arrived too late. After 28 minutes an ambulance from a neighboring county finally arrived, but by then her condition had worsened and the woman died from her reaction. In this case, the woman’s county only had two ambulances and both out on other calls.
This is just one example of a growing number of cases when an ambulance failed to arrive in time and serious consequences occurred.
Complex Problem with Multiple Causes
The Georgia tragedy shows the problem in many areas, where available EMS services are not sufficient for the demand. One reason for the change is the lack of new volunteers in rural areas where many EMS professionals are volunteers. As the current generation of volunteers ages, younger volunteers are not filling the gap.
Another issue that adds to this problem is that many people are calling for an ambulance when they do not actually need to be transported via emergency vehicle. This ties up EMS resources, preventing them from attending to those who actually need emergency help.
Lack of funds to pay EMS professionals well or purchase ambulances is yet another problem that is adding to this complex issue. Emergency medical professionals take on a great amount of risk and emotional trauma, yet do not receive a high level of compensation. In counties where EMS team members are paid, often the pay is not sufficient to keep them satisfied in their career.