The city of Springville is considering purchasing its own ambulance in case of a critical need after some say they have had to wait hours for emergency transport.

Springville Council memberHerbert Toles brought up the issue during a city council meeting.

“If somebody is sick, it can take them two to three hours to get an ambulance in,” said Toles.

Fire Chief Richard Harvey confirmed to 1819 News that this is a countywide issue.

“It is not uncommon that we’re having to wait for ambulances coming out of the other side of Jefferson County or far down into Shelby County,” Harvey said.

The city contracts with Regional Paramedical Services (RPS), but Harvey said a lot of times, they are unable to respond in a timely manner because of two issues: Hospitals that are full, and not enough people in the paramedic profession.

 “I taught at Jeff State for almost 15 years,” said Harvey. “It used to be, we would have a paramedic class of 20 people and now we’re doing good to get six to eight people in a class.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2021, the average pay for an EMT or paramedic is $36,930 per year. While fire chiefs across the state of Alabama are working to change the pay aspect of emergency services, the Springville fire chief says he wants to be proactive.

“We aren’t trying to be in the ambulance business,” said Harvey. “But if you can get a critically injured patient to a surgeon within the first hour of an incident, their chances of survival are much higher. They call it the golden hour.”

Harvey said St. Clair County as a whole is seeing problems with response times.

One example Harvey had was when his department was dispatched to a possible head-on collision on the interstate. He said the dispatcher called him and said they didn’t have an ambulance available. Thankfully, the crash was not a head-on collision, and Springville did not need one. But Harvey said that situation could’ve been much different.

“Had we needed an ambulance in that situation, there is no telling what would’ve happened,” said Harvey.

Another part of the problem is the wait time at emergency rooms, not only in Alabama but nationwide. Pre-COVID, Harvey said the average response time was around 13 minutes. Now, he says the average response time is around 30 minutes. Harvey said ambulances have to wait with patients waiting in the ER for a hospital bed.

“They have waited as long as six hours with a patient on an ambulance stretcher waiting for a bed in the ER,” Harvey explained. “An hour to two hours is very common, like a daily, daily thing. And that hurts the private ambulance service. If they have four ambulances but one at St. Vincent’s holding a wall and one at UAB, holding a wall, they don’t have the extra ambulances to be back in the county to take a call.”

When every minute counts, Harvey said an ambulance could mean the difference between life and death.

Mayor Dave Thomas said he is in favor of the city having its own ambulance.

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