published Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Marion County ambulance service up to speed

 Grandview CEO Bruce Baldwin, John Graham, Marion County mayor, Steve Puckett, president of Puckett EMS.
Grandview CEO Bruce Baldwin, John Graham, Marion County mayor, Steve Puckett, president of Puckett EMS.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

JASPER, Tenn. -- Data from the first 90 days of Marion County's new ambulance service show better-than-expected results, officials say.

Steve Puckett, president/CEO of Puckett EMS of Austell, Ga., said the first three months of providing the county's ambulance service have been a tremendous success for his company.

"We're coming to the end of our first 90 days, and everyone has really welcomed us to the county," he said. "Everyone we've come in contact with has been great to work with."

Puckett's director of operations, Doug Norton, said company personnel have answered more than 1,000 calls since the first day of service.

"The numbers are a little bit better than we had anticipated, and there were more calls than we had anticipated," he said. "People in the county have made us feel at home, and our employees really enjoy working in the county."

Puckett's contract requires it to reach rural areas of the county within 20 minutes on at least 90 percent of those calls, and after 257 transports in rural areas it has averaged an 11-minute response time, officials said.

In urban areas of the county, Puckett is obligated to respond within 10 minutes at least 90 percent of the time, Norton said.

"We've had 736 of those transports, which is the vast majority of our calls, and our average response time has been 7:22," he said.

Statistics show a little more than half of the transports are taken to Grandview Medical Center in Jasper, while the rest are taken to Erlanger hospital in Chattanooga.

"When we arrive on the scene, we will make every opportunity to let the patient decide where they want to go," Norton said. "So, if the patients want to go to Chattanooga or if they want to go to Grandview, we will try our best to take them where they want to go."

If a patient is too critical, Puckett personnel try to get to the closest facility, he said.

"The patient has the right to choose where they want to go, unless they're too critical to make that decision," he said. "Sometimes we'll override their choice if they are too critical, but we try to let them make an informed decision."

County Commissioner Ralph Pickett said county leaders and the vast majority of residents have been very pleased with the results of Puckett's efforts so far.

"People brag on them all the time, and I brag on them myself," he said.

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