By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
A week doesn’t go by without Lee County emergency responders helping people who have fallen or become stuck in their home and can’t get up.
Josh Wenzel, administrative director for Patient Placement and Transportation at North Mississippi Medical Center, said next to motor vehicle accidents, lifting assistance is probably one of their most common calls.
“The call comes in from a patient or company like Life Alert and that’s what the patient complains about – but that isn’t necessarily always the problem,” he said. “That’s why we have to assess each situation. The patient may say, ‘I just need help getting up, I can’t get up,’ but when we get there we may find out they have a fracture or suspected fracture or an injury that requires treatment at the hospital.”
Wenzel said when someone reports an emergency medical situation, they are obligated to respond. If the patient is stable and denies medical attention, the emergency medical responders can leave.
Patients on lifting assistance calls are usually elderly or people with limited mobility who live alone or with a spouse who is similarly elderly or limited.
Wenzel’s ambulance teams often work alongside volunteer fire departments when a patient is especially difficult to move.
If the ambulance crew doesn’t administer services outside of the lifting assistance and doesn’t transport the patient to the hospital, Medicare and insurance companies generally don’t reimburse the hospital. Wenzel said since the patient won’t be reimbursed, they don’t pass along the expense for lifting assistance to the patient.
For an ambulance to turn out of the hospital parking lot, it costs the ambulance service $210. The expense is insignificant compared to many medical costs, but with lifting assistant calls coming in every one to two days, Wenzel said it is significant for the hospital to absorb.
“I think it’s just one more value-added service that the system provides for the community,” he said. “A lot of people don’t think of the ambulance service as being that way but it really is. A lot of places with multiple hospitals have multiple ambulances to drive business and here it is strictly a health care service to the community.”