LETTERS / Blowing Rock Civic Association Responds to County Manager in Regards to Blowing Rock EMS Service Discussion

Published Wednesday, July 15, 2020 at 12:02 pm

Dear Chairman Welch, Commissioners Kennedy, Turnbow, Wallin and Yates, and County Manager Geouque,

I received and read Mr. Geouque’s reply to my letter of July 9, 2020, requesting that the County Commissioners vote on placing the new 24/7 EMS team in Blowing Rock.  

A tit for tat reply will not be productive because the current rationale for staffing the EMS system throughout the entire county is the core issue.

We believe that the County’s decision to base success on one Key Performance Indicator (KPI) of an average response time of 10 minutes is totally inadequate.  Accepting an outcome of an average response time of 9:01 minutes for emergency calls as success means that  50% of the calls for actual people, not statistics,  are above 9:01.   

Mr. Sullivan’s 2019 Annual Report documents that only 56% of emergency calls are less than 9:00 minutes. If you live in Boone, all is well, since the average emergency call response time is 6:10 minutes.  Otherwise, the average emergency response times for other districts range for 10:24 to 24:51 minutes.

We ask the County Commission review your priorities and set qualitative KPIs for providing EMS services throughout the county that recognizes our Effective Population that includes both permanent census and season taxpayers and geographic response times as the 90/9 KPI  would drive.  See the following link https://fems.dc.gov/page/ems-response-time  to explain the 90/9 benchmark. The health and safety of all residents throughout the County is a top priority that the County should fund.  Saying that the County cannot afford to expand the EMS services is not a reason to short change the health of any residents and taxpayers because of geography.    Funding against priorities is a decision that should be made by the County Commission as elected officials in consultation with the County Manager.  We all know you can fund what you prioritize. 

Other counties achieve a much higher quality outcome than Watauga County, so the outcomes are a choice of the County Commission.  You should have access to successful models and outcomes in other counties to use as examples for the Commission to consider.   If not, we can provide you with contacts.

Attached is a PowerPoint presentation prepared by Chief Graham in 2014 to make a case for expanding coverage throughout the County based on a 90/9 KPI.  So, the need and case for expansion for Blowing Rock has been on your table for 6 years. 

Just this weekend, we had an example of inadequate response time in Blowing Rock.  A hotel guest experienced a cardiac event and it took 30 minutes for the Watauga Medic’s ambulance to arrive! When it is your life at risk, averages response time is  not acceptable explanation. The tourist population is an additional factor to consider when calculating Effective Population.

Finally as to “commitments”.   Commitments or statements of support have been made by Commissioners in multiple meetings.  I made this comment based on those who heard the “commitments” first hand.   I realize that there was no vote by the County Commission evidenced in minutes,  but local leaders have been led to believe that Blowing Rock would have a 24/7 EMS team if we would be patient.  As the second-largest Effective Population center in the county with a substantial property tax base,  we believe that the time is now.

Please read my letter of July 9 with the correction of Madison rather than Monroe County during the Public Comment section of the agenda at the July 21, 2020 meeting.

Thank you for considering our request.

Tim Gupton

President

Blowing Rock Civic Association

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