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New defibrillators carry big price tag in Macon

Macon County emergency vehicles will soon be equipped with new state-of-the-art cardiac defibrillators.

Commissioners voted 3 to 2 this week to spend nearly $400,000 on 12 pieces of the live saving equipment. One will be placed in each of the county’s ambulances, and two will be placed in the county vehicles of medical staff. They will replace existing defibrillators, some of which are 10-years-old.

“The equipment we have now is reaching the end of its life,” said David Key, the county’s emergency services director. “In life safety you always want to have reliable equipment, the newer equipment is going to be more reliable.”

Key said the defibrillators were the best on the market would make emergency situations more manageable for residents. Made by a company called Zoll, they not only deliver shocks to restart the heart, but also come with a slew of other functions to monitor vital stats such as blood pressure, pulse and carbon dioxide levels.

But the purchase was not passed without controversy. Fiscal conservatives on the county board, Ron Haven and Paul Higdon, voted against the measure. They instead proposed buying the defibrillators in increments for budgeting purposes, rather than a lump sum.

They also questioned why the vital equipment wasn’t on a more gradual replacement schedule.

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“I’m not against providing that care. It’s a matter of financing,” Higdon said before his nay vote. “Every department in here could use a half-million dollar upgrade tomorrow.”

However, Commissioner Ronnie Beale pointed out that this was not a typical funding request, but rather a matter of the health of local citizens and possibly the difference between life and death. The county plans to borrow the money at a very low interest rate.

Also, emergency medical staff pointed out that only purchasing some of the equipment new would leave some ambulances with substandard equipment when responding to emergency calls. Also, the supplier included incentives to purchase all the equipment at once, including three free automatic CPR devices and a trade-in amount for the county’s old equipment.

“If it was for anything beside the safety and welfare of the citizens we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” Beale said. “I know it’s a lot of money but let’s go ahead and give these folks and our citizens the best opportunity to survive.”

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