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PTAR Meets with county to discuss concerns

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GREENSBORO, N.C. – County Commissioners met with the two agencies responsible for dispatching emergency services, to discuss why one agency receives more 9-1-1 calls than the other.

In Greensboro, two different groups respond to emergency calls when ambulances are needed Guilford County EMS (GCEMS) and Piedmont Triad Ambulance and Rescue Services (PTARS).

GCEMS responds to emergency calls with paramedics that have a minimum of 1096 hours of training and are certified to carry certain equipment and medicine other EMTs are not.

PTARS has intermediate level personnel who are authorized to carry everything a paramedic carries except narcotic pain medication and a sophisticated piece of equipment used for cardiac events.

In January, GCEMS decided it would take more of the calls PTAR had previously taken, after GCEMS Medical Director Michael Ghim said, data that was collected concened him that the right personnel had not been sent to certain emergencies.

"The issue here basically, is that if we had sent the right resources to the patient in the first place we could've done better for this patient," Ghim said.

Guilford County Emergency Services Director Alan Perdue stressed this is not a PTAR versus GCEMS issue. He believes the people of Guilford County are better served when paramedics respond to most calls.

PTAR's Chief Paula Lineberry worries about what happens when there aren't enough paramedics to go around, and also worries about the future of her organization.

PTAR does not cost Guilford County any money. The service is a nonprofit that runs off Medicare reimbursements for the calls they make.

Lineberry estimates they're losing 500 calls month, which may be enough to sink PTAR if the trend continues.

"We stand on our own two feet and support ourselves and that’s why the call volume is necessary to stay afloat," Lineberry said.

County commissioners told both groups to work on a solution together before the County had to get involved and make some changes.