Dunwoody declares ‘crisis’ after EMT is charged with hitting patient

After footage publicly emerged of an EMT striking a handcuffed teen patient, Dunwoody officials are calling for change in the city's emergency services.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to submit a formal declaration of an “EMS crisis” to the state of Georgia and request relief. The incident with the patient came as officials were already upset with slow response times from the city’s EMS provider, American Medical Response.

Among other options, the city may consider a plan to collaborate with nearby cities to provide EMS, but whatever happens would have to be approved by the Georgia Department of Public Health, which oversees EMS in the state.

Dunwoody is served by American Medical Response through an intergovernmental agreement with DeKalb County. The company also provides services in DeKalb.

The county has been working with the company for more than a year trying to find a solution to performance issues, DeKalb officials said. Under the terms of the contract, which runs out at the end of this year, the county has charged American Medical Response $1.5 million in penalties. No fees have been collected, as the company and county disagree about the terms of the contract.

To ensure service, the DeKalb fire-rescue agency dispatches its own units initially to most medical calls because the county’s firefighters are all certified EMTs, and many are paramedics. The average response time for the fire-rescue units is seven minutes and 37 seconds, county officials said.

DeKalb is planning a bidding process for a new provider and is taking “reasonable steps” to address the issues and avoid legal action, the county said.

The controversial video that emerged last week came from body cameras worn by Dunwoody police officers, who were on the scene when Deannah Williams allegedly struck the 17-year-old in the face. She was supposed to be transporting him for an evaluation.

American Medical Response said it took the situation seriously and that the worker accused of hitting the teen was no longer with the company.

But Dunwoody officials had already been considering how to improve service. Part of the concern came from two recent responses by the company: one that took 36 minutes and another that took 58 minutes.

Response times by American Medical Response in south Fulton County also recently led officials there to seek another provider. The company has said it's appealing the decision to instead hire Grady to handle EMS in the area.

Dunwoody’s appeal for relief, which is still being drawn up, will likely be to the state department of health’s EMS council. The health agency has regional boards made up of fire chiefs, doctors and others to oversee EMS across Georgia.

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