Ambulance service reverses course after I-Team investigation

Ambulance service reverses course after I-Team investigation

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by STUART WATSON / NewsChannel 36
E-mail Stuart: SWatson@WCNC.com

Bio | Email | Follow: @stuartwcnc

WCNC.com

Posted on August 24, 2010 at 11:10 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 15 at 10:09 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- York County's ambulance service, run by Piedmont Medical Center, has abruptly reversed course after a NewsChannel 36 I-Team Investigation.

Piedmont's CEO had insisted only weeks earlier that his ambulances would not transport patients to the new Emergency Room at CMC Steele Creek, even if it was the closest ER.

Piedmont CEO Charlie Miller told the I-Team that Piedmont ambulances would only transport patients to Emergency Rooms attached to hospitals.

"We're not going to take you to Steele Creek cause all that's going to happen at Steele Creek, if you've got a true emergency, is you're likely to get transferred yet again," Miller said in an interview last month. 

CMC Steele Creek is a freestanding ER without hospital beds for overnight admission.

CMC administrators countered with statistics showing only a small minority of ER patients are admitted to a hospital.

CMC administrator Chris Hummer told the I-Team, "I think it's a bit misguided and unfortunate because i do think what we offer here has served a tremendous need."

Under Piedmont's policy before it was changed, Piedmont ambulances picking up patients in Tega Cay or Lake Wylie who requested a CMC facility would be taken right past CMC Steele Creek to CMC Pineville.

"If you're unstable in the field and you byapss this (ER) you've probably not made the best decision with regards to the patient," said Hummer.

But within weeks of the I-Team's report, Piedmont changed the policy. It will now carry patients to CMC Steele Creek if they request the facility and if it is "medically appropriate."

Piedmont Marketing and Communications Director Sharon Harmon issued a statement in response to the I-Team's questions, saying:

"Recently, Piedmont Medical Center reviewed its transfer policies, sought the counsel of outside experts and made the decision to revise our policy to include limited-service ERs like Steele Creek, provided transfers to such facilities are medically appropriate. This protocol is one of many designed to make sure we are doing what's best for our patients in an emergency situation."  

There is no law or rule that requires Piedmont to take patients to CMC Steele Creek. York County's contract with Piedmont for ambulance service is approved by the County Council.

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