Investigation into EMT call-first policy reveals hospital's money woes

Expert comments from Art Hsieh, EMS1 editorial advisor, prompted Tenn. news channel to conduct an additional investigation of the new policy

HOUSTON COUNTY, Tenn. — EMS1 expert commentary prompts a local news channel to further investigate the controversial requirement for Houston County EMTs to call the local hospital before transporting patients.

Art Hsieh, EMS1 editorial advisor, was interviewed by WKRN after writing "Policy for EMTs to call physician for destination decision makes no sense."

The new policy, pushed forward by County Commissioner George Jeram, requires EMTs to contact the local hospital before transporting any patient to a hospital outside of Houston County, reported WKRN.

It is unclear why the county commission has created a policy requiring the county's EMS personnel to contact the local hospital before making a transport decision. Houston County does not have a trauma center or surgeon available.

"In terms of calling the doctor and asking where we should go (with a patient), that hasn't been around for 25 years," Hsieh said.

Hsieh's insight about the policy, as a possible ploy to increase revenue for the hospital, prompted WKRN to investigate the Houston County Community Hospital's finances. The most recent state audit shows the hospital is nearly $500,000 in debt. In March, the chief financial officer reported to the hospital's board of trustees that $500,000 per month is needed to pay the bills and only an average of $350,000 is coming in from revenue sources.

Jeram has not read Hsieh's article and tells WKRN he has no intention of reading it. The policy is to be discussed at the Nov. 16 Houston County commissioners meeting. 

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