When Walker launches its new ambulance service next week, the county “will be better covered than it has in its entire history,” says Jim Cutcher, who was recently hired to oversee the operation.

“With our staff we will be nearly double-covered from where we were in the past,” said Cutcher, whose official title is assistant chief of Walker County Emergency Medical Services.

The new ambulance service will roll out at 7 a.m. Wednesday. Ambulance crews will work a 24-hour shift, followed by 48 hours off.

Twenty-six of the 31 members of the new service come from Hutcheson Medical Center’s ambulance service. Hutcheson Medical is shutting down its service at midnight that same day.

The cost of service will vary, from basic to advanced life-saving, between $740 and $850.

Intense preparation

Cutcher said County Coordinator David Ashburn and Fire Chief Randy Camp “have done a phenomenal job putting all of this together,” Cutcher said.

Cutcher’s lengthy experience locally in EMS means that he has worked and trained with the majority of the staff hired to make up the new unit.

“Our goal is to become the best service in the region and become nationally certified. But we have to walk before we can run,” Cutcher said.

Training will be continuous, with more than half the responders having 15 or more years in the field, and several in training roles.

The new personnel spent the weekend of Dec. 21-22 learning the particulars of how Walker County Emergency Medical Services will operate. Paramedics and EMTs received their new uniforms, along with the expectations of leaders like Cutcher, Ashburn and Camp.

“It has been overwhelming, but the staff has really come through” Camp said.

Also promoted within the new department, Capt. Kevin Nowicki from the Wallaceville fire station has become the battalion training chief, an assistant to Cutcher.

Closeup: Jim Cutcher
Jim Cutcher is the new assistant chief of Walker County Emergency Medical Services.
Cutcher has been involved in emergency services since its inception regionally in 1972. He actually attended the first paramedic class in Chattanooga in 1976.
A 1969 graduate of Baylor school, Cutcher began his career with Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe in 1978.
Cutcher credits his mentor, Dr. James H. Crell Jr., for the “foresight of aggressively leading the way in emergency management.” Cutcher was the Region 1 training specialist for the state office of EMS in Rome, Ga.

High-tech equipment

The staff also spent the weekend of Dec. 21-22 getting familiar with the cutting-edge technology that will be on board the new ambulances.

A new cardiac monitor/defibrillator will replace three pieces of equipment found on older ambulances. The monitor has a dozen sensors for measuring a patient’s condition.

The county has already purchased one ambulance, and more on the way.

Meanwhile, three ambulances will be temporarily provided by Erlanger in Chattanooga, while another three will be provided by Peach State Medical Supplies of Alpharetta.

The temporary units have been outfitted with the new technology, which will be transferred to the new ambulances as they arrive.

Six ambulances will be staffed daily when all the new ones arrive, Nowicki said.

Three rescue ambulances, known as fire medic trucks, will carry fire suppression, rescue and extrication equipment, along with a crew of three. The fire medic trucks have been ordered and three are expected to be in service by March, followed by the other three in May.

Courtsey of Walker County Messenger