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Possible EMS Program Would Expand Coverage

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The Commissioners Court didn’t renew an Austin/Travis County EMS contract last night. They’ll wait until next week to do that. But county commissioners did show some love for a new proposal that would create a unit of paramedics roaming the city in trucks tending to those sick and injured Austinites in need of assistance.

Sounds familiar right? Strangely enough, they’re not ambulances. 

They’re called EMS squads and they aren’t all that farfetched. It’s the same basic principle of an ambulance, but with a food-truck, beat-cop mentality. They’re a mobile unit that simply treats those in their service area. When they do get a call, they stabilize the patient, wait for an ambulance to arrive, and then their patients are taken to a hospital by an ambulance. The EMS squad truck stays out, waiting for the  next call.

Danny Hobby, the head of Travis County emergency services, said the program would provide a broader range of coverage for both the city of Austin and Travis County.

“It would complement the ambulance, but now the only way for service would be an ambulance and they’re not always there,” Hobby said. “We’re so spread out and our geography isn’t as condensed as it is in other cities.”

The number of EMTs isn’t a problem, there are over 250 in the Travis County area. There’s talent, Hobby said, and this measure could provide a new, efficient way to both utilize the talent and expand the service area.

The pilot program could fit within the current budgetary constraints, Hobby said, and that he could’ve enacted the program as early as last October, when the Travis County EMS’s fiscal year begins. Of course, he will need county approval before enacting the plan.

“I’m real positive about it, and I think it can happen,” Hobby said. “It’s worth the effort to get into this project and bring it before the court.”

A/TCEMS Chief Ernie Rodriguez expressed concern in the commissioners' meeting yesterday, saying that currently EMS can only cover 60 percent of the entire county.

The Travis County Commissioners will meet next Tuesday to vote on renewing emergency services funding.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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