9-1-1 abuse requires look

Published 10:04 am Thursday, June 18, 2009

Abuse — drug abuse and ambulance abuse — is costing Lawrence County taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and has to become a focus.

Reports that drug addicts are using the county-funded Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services ambulance system as a way to scam hospital emergency rooms out of prescription pain medicines raised many concerns.

The Lawrence County taxpayer is simply subsidizing these unnecessary ambulance runs. And of course this drives up the cost of health care because the hospitals pass along the expenses they incur to the paying customers who seek medical care.

But almost of equal concern is the contention of SEOEMS employees that another major problem is that many citizens simply abuse the ambulance service by calling 9-1-1 for non-emergencies for things like a common cold, ingrown toenails, help getting out bed and other things.

Because it is operated by the county and is a publicly run system, SEOEMS has no choice but to respond to all calls that it gets, even if they know the person is abusing the system in one way or another.

We hope that this gets the attention of all involved and we can begin serious discussion about ways to correct these problems.

This should involve elected officials in the county, ambulance operators, EMTs, hospital administrators, ER physicians and even state legislators.

Efforts should start with education about 9-1-1’s purpose.

Problems of this magnitude won’t be easily corrected because any changes that aren’t well-thought out could cost someone’s life, but now is the time to take a long, hard look at how this system operates and if there are things that can be done to correct it.