Commissioners hear of issues with Survival Flight services

by Todd Brooks

By Todd Brooks

Even though it did not directly involve them, Stephens County Commissioners agreed to listen to citizens who wanted to talk about problems with Survival Flight, the local emergency management services.

Before letting anyone speak on the subject, Chairman Todd Churchman addressed the fact that the county does not have a contract with Survival Flight and therefore commissioners could not take any action on what was said, but they were willing to provide a way for the sides to talk.

“The reality of it is, is it’s really not this board’s place to discuss this, but I put it on the agenda because I was hit with it last-minute and without knowing what sort of an emergency it may or may not be, I put it on the agenda,” Churchman said. “I didn’t know if it was something we could take action on.

Local resident Ashley Meadows said she had received several complaints from other residents about the lack of response times, EMS services having to come from other counties to cover, and lack of sufficient care from Survival Flight. One of the complaints revolved around a two-hour response time to a lift assist in Comanche.

Shaine Keasler, regional manager for Survival Flight, was in attendance on the company’s behalf, said he couldn’t address all the individual complaints without researching them, but he did know about the lift assist in Comanche. Keasler said there was a delay of an hour before the county dispatch reported the call to Survival Flight and then it took another hour for them to respond due to the high call volume at the time.

“We did look into that specific one (the lift assist), but it was an hour from the time she called before we were ever even requested,” Keasler said. “That was a breakdown in the 911 center.”

Keasler said Survival Flight does have five ambulances working the county and two are used for transfers and sometimes those transfers have to be taken to places like Tulsa or Texas due to lack of space at local hospitals.

“It is depleting some of the local resources that would normally be Oklahoma City or Lawton transfer, but there’s no bed availability,” Keasler said. “We have five ambulances and when they are depleted we have to rely on mutual aid.”

Comanche city manager Chuck Ralls and fire chief Scooter Bivins were both in attendance at the meeting.

Commissioner Russell Morgan asked Ralls if he had anything to add.

“We weren’t invited to the table when it came to talks with Duncan and Marlow about services,” Ralls said. “We certainly have a need for an ambulance. I hate to leave my citizens unprotected. We are a one-man department and we are not medically certified. We rely heavily on Meridian, but they are a volunteer service and generally are not available during the day because they all work. It is fine at night and on weekends.”

Ralls said it was important to make sure the city has coverage at all times.

“We’ve got 2,000 citizens down there and if they’re (Survival Flight) running short on trucks or you know, not in a position to leave the city of Duncan or Marlow because they are down to one truck, what options do we have,” Ralls asked. “Even if it’s just a lift assist, sending one of my firefighters out if they’re exposed to COVID, takes me down to a two-man department, so we really can’t run medical calls out of our department.”

Ralls and Keasler did talk after the meeting about seeing if some type of resolution could be reached. Ralls said he would at least like to have an ambulance during the day in the city.

Scott Meadows, a former AMR employee who worked the area when AMR had the first responder contract, said he has not heard anything positive from the people he’s talked to about Survival Flight’s service.

Churchman then ended the discussion and said he was ready to move on to the next agenda item.

“This is not really the forum to get into some lengthy discussion about, but I would encourage you if there is some ways that you guys can get together and talk about these issues, I would certainly recommend that,” Churchman said.

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