ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. — Ballad Health, a leading healthcare provider in Tennessee, has announced a significant investment in Carter County's emergency medical services by providing a new ambulance. This funding, made possible through a grant, will enhance patient transport capabilities, particularly for those requiring a higher level of care than Ballad's Sycamore Shoals Hospital can provide.
This decision comes after discussions between Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby and Ballad Health Southern Region President Lisa Carter. The ambulance will serve as a crucial addition to the Carter County Emergency & Rescue Squad's fleet, increasing the overall capacity for patient transportation.
“Mayor Woodby reached out to me on behalf of her EMS providers and the citizens of Carter County to work collaboratively on a solution for ensuring patients receive timely care,” said Lisa Carter, herself a native of Carter County. “Our commitment to Sycamore Shoals Hospital, its emergency and acute care services, and the people it serves has never been stronger.”
The new ambulance will be based at Sycamore Shoals Hospital, which recently reopened its ambulance station to Carter County EMS. The Carter County Rescue Squad was evicted from the same location when the hospital decided to reclaim the space for other use.
Ballad Health's recent closure of the ICU and other services at Sycamore Shoals Hospital has caused concern in the community. These services were transferred to Johnson City Medical Center. Now, the reopening of the ambulance station signifies an extended partnership and commitment to the residents of Carter County.
Mayor Woodby expressed her gratitude to Ballad Health leadership, stating that the new ambulance reflects the commitment to stewarding resources to improve access to specialized care, despite challenging national circumstances.
Procuring an emergency services vehicle has taken more than a year in the post-COVID era due to supply chain shortages from ambulance manufacturers. With Ballad Health's financial support, this process will be expedited. The new ambulance is expected to be staffed and ready for duty promptly. This will notably alleviate the strain on transportation from rural areas of the county, ensuring patients from all regions have full access to acute care services.
Local EMS directors from around the region acknowledge the purchase and swift delivery of a new ambulance are significant. Directors also agree the major hurdle with expanding services is a shortage of qualified personnel. Such staffing issues are related to the lack of personnel entering the healthcare and public safety workforce and the lack of a thriving wage due to a lack of local government and insurance reimbursement rates.
Tennessee State Sen. Rusty Crowe also lauded this vital resource's funding and swift procurement. He praised the commitment of all involved and noted that this new ambulance would substantially improve transport availability in Carter County following an in-depth study by the Tennessee Department of Health.
This initiative is an example of a public-private partnership aimed at providing the best care to the community. Dwayne Taylor, chief executive officer of Sycamore Shoals Hospital, commended the collaborative effort that made this possible and reassured that the 24/7 emergency department services and inpatient medical-surgical department would continue to provide high-quality care to their patients.