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LETTERS / County Commissioners Ignoring Medical Transport Problem Too Long

Graphic by Ashley Poore.

Dear Editor,

On October 16,2020 The Watauga Democrat printed…’This week in the Archives: “Blowing Rock Residents Gripe About Ambulance Service” read a headline in the Oct. 5, 1978, Watauga Democrat.”  

None of us need to be convinced that heart attacks are serious. And they can be deadly. Most of us know age is a significant factor in heart attacks.

But just for the record, here are a few chilling statements after scrolling through the medical information on the internet:

AGE     HEART ATTACK PER 100,000  

20-29               2.1       

30-39               16.9     

40-49               97.6

“The incidence of heart attack in persons age 65-74 is 7 times higher than for ages 35-44.”

“The incidence of heart attack in persons 80+ is 2 to 3 times that of persons aged 65-69”

“Most fatal heart attacks occur in patients aged 65 or older”

“Adults aged 65 and older are more likely to suffer cardiovascular disease than younger people”

“Heart attacks account for nearly 700,000 deaths in the US each year-that’s 1 in every 5”

The same scan of medical websites concludes:

“Immediate treatment can minimize long-term effects of stroke or heart attack and even prevent death”

“When stroke or cardiac arrest occur, getting care fast is critical. Each minute without oxygen and blood flow to the brain increases the risk of permanent damage and death. Every second counts!”

“Surviving myocardial infarction is primarily due to recognizing the symptoms and getting prompt attention”

“It’s possible but rare someone in their 20’s would die from a heart attack” 

These facts we all know…Or do we?

Here’s a few more facts:

1- there are 20,000 residents in Boone per the most recent census

2-There are 1,149 adult residents of Blowing Rock

3-The Watauga County property taxes paid by Blowing Rock taxpayers is almost the same as the Watauga County property taxes paid by Boone taxpayers. Watauga County Commissioners are responsible for determining how that money is used to provide for the needs of all county residents- not just those living in Boone.

4- Medical Transport Service is a service for which the County Commission is responsible.

5-The average age of a Boone resident is 21.5 years.

6- The average age of a Blowing Rock resident is 63 years.

By now you know where this is heading……The residents of Boone have a $35 million recreation center that is paid for by all county residents. But Blowing Rock residents nor those elsewhere in Watauga County still don’t have decent medical transport.

The average Medical Transport arrival at a 911 call for persons living in Boone is 90% within 9 minutes which is the National Standard.

The average time service for arrival for a 911 call for medical transport in Blowing Rock (and other Watauga communities outside Boone) does not meet the National standard and, in fact, fails unconscionably at times to even arrive at all. Within the past 7 days I’ve heard Watauga residents provide details of Watauga Medic getting lost or breaking down enroute or just not showing at all. It is not unusual for a Blowing Rock transport by Watauga Medic to take 25 to 45 minutes to arrive. That’s 3 to 5 times longer for the people that need fast action the most.

The frequency and severity of heart attacks and stroke alone and its dominance as the #1 killers of people in the US should cause the Watauga County Commissioners to take heed. Medical science has proven fast action saves lives. 

And yet, Emergency Medical Transport Service for Blowing Rock has been an issue ignored by the Watauga County Commissioners for decades.

It’s almost as though the County Commission has been satisfied with positioning a critical care service where it can do the least good versus the most good for the people who pay their fair share of taxes and need the service the most.

It’s time for a change!

Maybe it’s time for the Watauga Commissioners to demand Watauga Medic locate a transport where they can provide the services to at least the national standard.

Or maybe it’s time for a public audit of Watauga Medic’s contract, what they’re getting paid and what service level they actually provide.

But it’s clear the time has come for the Watauga County Commission to stop ignoring the needs of their Blowing Rock constituents. 

Greg King – Blowing Rock, NC