1967-Metro Ambulance Service (Atlanta, Georgia)

1967-Metro Ambulance Service (Atlanta, Georgia)

 

 

Metro Ambulance Service - Atlanta Georgia

   The following is a historical account of one of America's most legendary private EMS groups that played an important pioneer role in our Nation's EMS system. A group that captured the awe of both the medical community, public safety and the public alike. That group was Metro Ambulance Service, Inc. and its legendary founder was Edgar H. "Bo" Pounds. To better understand how this college fraternity style organization originally evolved and how it progressed to become one of America's first paramedic programs and the largest ambulance service in both American and Georgia during that era, we must first go back almost sixty years to an era when Metropolitan Atlanta's public emergency care capabilities were, in many cases, primative at best.

Cobb County Ambulance Service in the 60’s 

    During the 60's Marietta, Georgia was a quiet incorporated city which was located approximately twenty miles northwest of downtown Atlanta. Like most other areas in the country, Marietta had relied on long-time established funeral homes to provide emergency ambulance service to its citizens over the decades. In the mid 60's, Edgar H. "Bo" Pounds was an accomplished baseplayer in the minor leagues who was then drafted into the Army. Upon his honorable discharge, Pounds decided to become a Marietta city fireman because the work schedule would allow him to attend law school in the evenings. In early 1967, he was returning home one night from law classes when he came across a bad accident that had occurred on the still uncompleted Interstate 285 where it ended at Highway 41 in Atlanta's northwest suburban Cobb County. He noticed that several of the victims were receiving little or no attention. He then pondered the question of why soldiers on the battlefields of Vietnam received much better medical care that those injured in an auto accident in Georgia. To gain a better understanding, Pounds decided to visit local Marietta funeral homes to see how they operated and what equipment and attendant training that they had.

    He quickly learned that the local Marietta Dobbins, Mayes-Ward Funeral Home and Hay Funeral Homes had been serving Marietta citizens for generations with mostly low-roof hearses that could be quickly converted to an ambulance by attaching a removable red beacon, removing the side scrolled "Landau" glass panel covers, flipping over the casket roller covers and inserting a portable oxygen bottle into its floor upright mounting bracket. The vehicle already had a permanently mounted stretcher securing bracket and a siren underneath the hood. In fact, one of the hearse/ambulance conversion vehicles actually had a sign inside the rear stretcher area that said "Oxygen Equipped" to which Pounds thought to himself...."That's pretty good if you're able to still breath it." However, he did note that several funeral homes were already operating a custom built Cadillac, Pontiac or Oldsmobile ambulance vehicles that at least had attendants with Red Cross first aid training, basic splints and a stocked first-aid kit in addition to the customary oxygen unit.

    In that era, the all volunteer Cobb County Civil Defense Rescue also responded to vehicle accidents throughout both the county and also inside the incorporated municipalities of Marietta, Austell, Kennesaw and Powder Springs whenever there was victim entrapment. The Cobb County Fire Department routinely responded to vehicle accidents with a pumper and the Marietta Fire Department also operated a small GMC panel truck rescue unit which was used mainly to respond to fires. The City of Smyrna was also served by rescue trucks were operated by the volunteer Smyrna Civil Defense Rescue. Private operated tow trucks also played an important role in helping ambulance personnel to help disentangle the patients from the vehicles that they were entrapped in. This was in an era where "Jaws of Life" style gas powered hrdraulic rescue tools had not yet been introduced and therefore emergency crews had to depend on manual hydraulic pump "Porto-Power" style rescue devices, gas powered "K-12" saws, hand tools and the wrecker's cable hoist to accomplish victim extrication.

 

(1966-67) Funeral Homes Respond to Changing Ambulance Requirements

    In 1966, the Federal government was beginning to establish minimum standards for ambulance design, emergency care equipment and ambulance attendant training. Cobb County funeral homes came to the realization that the federal government would soon require individual states to either pass ambulance regulation laws, or risk a reduction in Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) Highway Safety Matching Funds. For decades, Marietta area funeral homes had provided ambulance response as a dedicated non-profit community service. However, they were now beginning to realize that possible new federal minimum wage and future state government ambulance regulations would soon make it cost-prohibitive to continue their operating ambulances. At about this same time, after visiting a myriad of funeral homes, Pounds had finally decided to establish a private ambulance service within the City of Marietta which would use well-equipped vehicles which were staffed with returning Army and Navy medics from the Vietnam War.

    Many of the Marietta area funeral homes had already began developing a plan to gracefully end their decades old ambulance service without appearing to abandon the community. In late 1966, the Dobbins, Mayes-Ward Funeral Home and Hay-Gantt Funeral Homes all agreed to join together and form General Ambulance Service, which was established in the city at Page Street and U.S. Hwy 41, as an exit strategy to end the funeral home's directly provided ambulance service to Marietta. Each funeral home agreed to contribute one of their hearse/ambulance conversion or custom ambulance vehicles and personnel. However, once General actually began, this strategy only lasted about three months at which time all three funeral homes then decided to end the service due to escalating operating costs.

    This left the City of Marietta without city-based ambulance service, so the city immediately purchased three 1967 Ford station wagons and converted them into ambulances. These vehicles were equipped with oxygen, a first aid kit, a one level stretcher and a folding stretcher for a second patient. These ambulances were manned with one police officer who had completed Red Cross First Aid training and who would also patrol police zones when not on an ambulance call. The police ambulances began operating in early 1967 and the Cobb County Police Department also began to operate several station wagon ambulances out of concern of other Cobb County funeral homes might also end their ambulance service. This never occured in the county as other funeral homes such as Norman-Medford, Sanders, Castelaw, Gene Davis and Winkenhoffer-McCurdy continued to provide quality emergency ambulance coverage for Smryna, Austell, Kennesaw and the remainder of the county using Red Cross first aid trained personnel and equipped vehicles. 

 

(May 5, 1967) Metro Ambulance Service Begins Operation 

    Bo Pounds, after borrowing $1,000.00, opened a small office as the first Metro Ambulance Service (MAS) station. The office opened on May 5, 1967 on Lemon Street directly behind the Mayes-Ward Funeral Home in downtown Marietta. The first ambulance placed in service was a 1966 Oldsmobile-Cotner/Bevington (C/B) ambulance which was a custom-built vehicle that the Hay Funeral Home had allowed the short-lived General Ambulance Service to operate. C/B was actually a division of the Wayne/DIVCO Corporation which also owned Miller/Meteor (M&M) Corporation who built ambulances on the Cadillac chassis. Pounds initially used some off-duty Marietta first aid trained fireman to man the ambulances. He also added a bag/valve/mask resuscitator, air splints, a Thomas traction splint, airways, a “physicians black bag” medical kit, a short wooden backboard and a long backboard to the vehicle's patient care equipment. A 1965 Ford station wagon ambulance was next placed in service and similarly equipped. Metro remained on Lemon Street for several months and responded to private emergency calls as well as occasionally responding to vehicle accidents when Marietta or Cobb County police ambulances were unavailable. 

    With the initial success of Metro Ambulance Service, both the Marietta and Cobb County Police Departments soon decided to end their ambulance service if Metro would agree to expand its capability. To assist Metro, the city agreed to rent one of its city owned houses to Bo Pounds at which time Metro then relocated from its Lemon Street office to 219 Lawrence Street, adjacent to the Marietta Police Headquarters. Pounds soon decided that the $300.00 per month lease on the 1966 Cotner/Bevington ambulance was excessive and decided to directly purchase a new vehicle to replace it. The late James Houston, owner of Crain Garage in Marietta, was the Southeast Distributor for M&M and greatly assisted in financing the purchase of Metro ambulances in the early era of Metro's inception. In December-1967, Metro Ambulance Service took delivery on a new concept 1968 54" headroom Chevrolet "Sentinel" model ambulance which had built by DIVCO/Wayne Corporation and was the first custom-built truck chassis ambulance ever sold by Crain garage. Using a truck instead of a traditional Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Pontiac or Buick chassis for an ambulance was almost unheard of. But before long, an increasing number of area services began using truck chassis that had ben converted into ambulances.

(1967-69) Metro Ambulance Expands to Atlanta and Adjoining Counties 

    In late 1967, Bo decided to expand Metro Ambulance Service to the City of Atlanta and opened Metro Ambulance Station #2 on Linden Avenue (off Ponce de Leon Ave.) just east of the downtown area. He placed into service a 1962 Miller-Meteor Cadillac ambulance which had been used by a Brooklyn hospital in New York City, and a 1967 Miller/Meteor Cadillac low roof ambulance that he had just purchased from the Hemperly Funeral Home in East Point (located about five miles south of downtown). In 1969 Metro also opened Station 3 in Cartersville (about twenty miles North of Marietta and Station 4 in Gainesville, GA. (approximately 40 miles northeast of Atlanta). In latter 1968, Metro relocated its Station 2 on Linden Avenue to a larger two story house with rear garages at 1070 Spring St, NW at 12th St. in Mid-Town Atlanta.

    In 1969, Metro began to rapidly expand in Atlanta by placing two ambulances in service as Decatur Ambulance Service (Metro Station #5) in neighboring City of Decatur (about five miles East of downtown) and two ambulances as Professional Ambulance Service (Station 6) about five miles South of downtown Atlanta. At the same time, Metro opened an ambulance station in Mableton and then added an additional ambulance to Station 1 in Marietta. Two additional ambulances were added to the Spring Street, NW office that same year. Metro Ambulances were called "cars" as opposed to the word "unit" (i.e.; "Car 25", Car 44, etc.)

 

(1969-70) Paramedic Programs Begin in America

Dr. Luther Fortson    In 1969, Dr. Luther Fortson, the chief medical officer for Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, had become intrigued as to the ability of NASA to monitor the Apollo astronauts EKG and other vital signs via radio telemetry during that year’s first moon landing mission. Kennestone Hospital had just opened one of the Nation's first Coronary Care Units (CCU) and Dr. Fortson envisioned a telemetry system that could enable Kennestone CCU nurses to monitor each CCU patient’s EKG from a central nursing station. Dr. Fortson was also familiar with the Mobile Coronary Care Unit (MCCU) program that had been instituted by Dr. William Grace at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City using a hospital based step van ambulance staffed with a cardiologist, a medical intern, nurse and several technicians. Bo Pounds had also been reading "Fire Engineering" and "Fire Chief" magazines and was acutely aware of the accomplishments of both Dr. Eugene Nagle and Jim Hirschmann using the City of Miami Fire Department "Rescue 1" personnel and by Dr. James Warren and Dr. Richard Lewis at the Ohio State University-Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio in conjunction with the Columbus Fire Department's "Heartmobile" Project. He knew that the Harbor General Hospital in Los Angeles and the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington were also experimenting with similar programs using city and county fire department staffed ambulances. Bo Pounds was also selected by Physio-Control to participate on a new defibrillator research team.

    All of the fire based programs at that time adopted the term "paramedic" but were actually mobile coronary care oriented in the initial years including the early fire department based "paramedic" programs in Los Angeles County. Also, in 1969, the Haywood County Volunteer Rescue Squad in North Carolina instituted a paramedic mobile coronary care program under the medical direction of Dr. Ralph Feicher that, like the Miami program, allowed for remote physician medical control and supervision using voice/telemetry for on-scene paramedics to admonister invasive emergency life-saving procedures.

    It was interesting to note that the initial Los Angeles County Fire Department’s “Heart Car” paramedic vehicle actually required that a registered nurse be present in order for the paramedics to administer drugs, IV's, intubation and defibrillation procedures until the California Legislature passed the Wentworth-Townsend Act in 1971. Pounds, like Dr. Fortson's, was also intrigued with the NASA telemetry program and also what these cities were doing to transmit a patients electrocardio gram (EKG) by phone and radio. Pounds then envisioned instituting a "tiered response" using a specially equipped and staffed Metro Ambulance vehicle to extend the specialized care capabilities of Kennestone's CCU unit to patients residing within the hospitals service area. The closest basic life support (BLS) level Metro ambulance would  respond with Car 25 and a system whereby a coronary patient could be stabilized and then transported to Kennestone, totally bypassing the emergency room, and be directly admitted to the hospital's coronary care unit. 

    Jane Carter, RN was a 50's graduate of the Crawford W. Long School of Nursing and had already spent a decade at Kennestone Hospital. Carter had expressed a strong interest to work in the proposed Kennestone CCU when it opened and Dr. Fortson then selected Carter, along with a small number of other nurses, to travel to to the Houston Medical Center. There, they would spend three weeks performing a study of the Methodist Hospital's CCU operations and treatment protocols that had been established to care for patients who had undergone open-heart surgery by world renouned heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey. The scientific trip was fully funded by the American Heart Association as the organization was accelerating coronary treatment and education programs throughout the Nation. When the nurses returned, they started designing Kennestone's CCU but there was one significant complication that would directly effect them in this endeavor.

    In the late 60's, Georgia registered nurses were prohibited by Board rules from administering life-saving medical invasive procedures. If a CCU patient encountered a coronary crisis or cardiac arrest, the duty nurse had to have the "house physician" and/or the patients personal physician paged to respond to the hospital's CCU. A "crash cart" with cardiac medications, defibrillator, IV fluids and other supples was maintained in the CCU and brought to the patients bedside. In that era, a patients personal physician would also often respond to the patients home to provide evaluation and treatment with what limited pharmaceuticals that they carried in their medical bag.

    Dr. Fortson was already exploring a means to prompt the State of Georgia to allow CCU nurses to administer life-saving cardiac care invasive procedures if they had received specialized training in this arena just as California, Ohio and other states had done. Pounds also approached Dr. Fortson and presented a comprehensive plan to use a Marietta based specially equipped Metro Ambulance Service "Car 25" which would be staffed with paramedics under Dr. Fortson’s direct medical supervision and who had completed a coronary care course at Kennestone. Fortson agreed with the concept and then wrote Georgia's Attorney General (AG), Arthur Bolton, for a legal opinion that if such use of nurses and paramedics would violate the Georgia Medical Practice Act. The AG reviewed existing Georgia laws and issued an "Attorney General” (“AG”) opinion that stated it would be legal for both specially trained CCU nurses and ambulance paramedics to administer I.V. fluids and drugs to patients as well as resuscitate and defibrillate cardiac patients if having been specially trained in this area and accepted by the community. "Accepted by the community" meant the program being accepted by the local Cobb County Medical Society, the sponsoring hospital (Kennestone) and having the close medical supervision by a physician under whose medical license such program would operate. In the absence of formal laws authorizing the paramedical administrative of such medically invasive procedures in Georgia, the AG opinion took on the force of law.

 

(1970-1973) The Metro Ambulance Paramedic Program Begins

 

    Since 1967, Metro had begun hiring former Vietnam War returning medics who were required to complete both the Red Cross Standard First Aid and the Advanced First Aid Course. In the Summer of 1970, Pounds required that these medics also attend and complete the recently introduced 32 hour EMT Emergency Care Practical Course sponsored by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). Upon completion of the AAOS training, an initial group of Metro Ambulance Service medics were then selected to complete a special 56 hour Coronary Care Course at Kennestone which was the same course being taught to the CCU nurses.

    Jane Carter, RN was now appointed at the head nurse for the Kennestone CCU and would serve as the course instructor along with Dr. Fortson and several other cardiologists. The dictionary at that time defined the word “Paramedic” as …”one who assists a physician.” So the decision was made, like other cities, to call these Metro Ambulance Service students “paramedics” and the program was called the "Metro Ambulance/Kennestone Hospital Paramedic Project." By the latter Fall of 1970, the students had completed a total of 56 hours of training which included classroom presentations, becoming highly proficient in the administration of CPR and airway adjunct support devices; the administration of Dextrose 50%, Normal Saline and Ringers Lactate intravenous (IV) fluids; the administration of 1:10,000 Epinephrine, Sodium Bicarbonate, Calcium Chloride, Atropine, Lidocaine and Talwin and to defibrillate. The medics spent initial and on-going in-service clinical hours in the CCU assisting nurses with patient care and in the operating room where they intubated.

 

    The first Metro Ambulance Service paramedic unit was Metro "Car 25" which was based at Metro Station 1 at 219 Lawrence Street in Marietta. The vehicle was a 1970 54" raised roof Chevrolet "Suburban" Wayne/DIVCO "Sentinel" ambulance which had additional cabinetry installed on the left side over the stretcher to store IV's, medications and administration supplies. The paramedic equipment included a 54 lb. Zenith/Travelnol "Monopulse" NICAD battery portable defibrillator that had no scope, a NICAD powered Cambridge 3-lead EKG chart recorder, a Travenol mechanical CPR device, a John Walker modulator/ demodulator and a drug/IV kit. The portable Cambridge EKG unit was initially used at the patient’s bedside to transmit the patient's EKG to the Kennestone CCU using a standard telephone. The patient's electrocardiogram (EKG) electrical signal was converted into an audible tone.

    At the Kennestone CCU, there was a companion identical Cambridge EKG unit which decoded the incoming tone back into a readable EKG rhythm which was displayed on a CCU Hewlett Packard EKG scope. At that time, Metro Paramedic Car 25 could only print out the patient's EKG using the Cambridge chart recorder since there was no commercially available and affordable NICAD battery powered portable defibrillator with an embedded EKG scope at that time. Bo Pounds then consulted with Marietta Communications, Inc.( the local Motorola radio communications shop) where technician Jimmy Hiatt engineered a way to input the EKG into a radio signal. At that time, Metro Ambulance Service was using several low-band VHF channels and the hospital did not have a base radio. Almost immediately, the local Kennestone Hospital auxiliary group "the Guide" acquired donated funds to purchase both a base radio/telemetry station for the CCU along with a radio tower. Metro therefore became the first ambulance service to transmit a patient's EKG over a VHF low-band channel. At that time, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had not envisioned the sudden introduction of the need to transmit EKG's. Therefore, there were no FCC channels dedicated for this technology outside of the NASA space program. 

    Metro had already purchased the "Car 25" ambulance paramedic equipment using their own funds. Metro's new paramedic program became instantly successful and saved a number of lives during its early inception. Paramedic Ambulance 25 soon changed to a larger patient care area 1970 Cotner/Bevington raised roof Oldsmobile ambulance and then to a 1971 Wayne/DIVCO "Vangard" Chevrolet low-roof van. In early 1971, the original Monopulse defibrillator was replaced with a new Mennen/Greatbach 33lb. portable defibrillator which featured a 3" EKG scope and could monitor the patient’s rhythm directly through the defibrillator paddles. This unit was manufactured by Physio-Control Corporation and marketed by Mennen/Greatbach. It was actually a Physio-Control LifePak 33 but with the Mennen/Greatbach label. Based on the success of the Metro Ambulance /Kennestone paramedic program, a second paramedic ambulance (using the original low-roof van) was placed in service as "Car 45" at Metro's Station #2 in Atlanta. Crawford W. Long Hospital, in Downtown Atlanta, had agreed to become the second hospital to have a CCU based paramedic mobile coronary care program. The original Marietta paramedic “Car 25” was then replaced with a new Chevy Wayne/DIVCO Chevy “Vangard” 60" raised-roof ambulance. A newly introduced Tektronic 3-lead portable EKG scopes were also added to both paramedic units. 

    There's an old saying in the world of medical academia which is.."publish or perish!" The 1970 historic paramedic program accomplishments of Dr. Fortson and Metro Ambulance Service's Paramedic Car 25 and Car 45, went virtually unnoticed in medical scientific literature journals. Dr. Fortson did not have the time to formally reserach and publish his paramedic and hospital CCU scientific date due to an extremely hectic schedule and a lack of supporting staff. The fire department journals of that era were consumed with reporting the initial and continued paramedic program accomplishments of such cities as Miami, Jacksonville, Seattle, etc. The mainstream medical journal EMS articles mainly focused on the early hospital based MCCU programs and evolving resuscitation and trauma outcome studies. Even the late Jim Page's book "The Paramedics" made no mention of Dr. Fortson and of Metro Ambulance Service, Inc. It was actually early local newspaper photos and accounts, television coverage and medical group documentation that actually validated these historic events by a private service. It would be decades later before the National EMS Museum scientific investigators could go back to this era and research this documentation and publish in the public.arena.

     In 1971, the original 1970 Car 25 Cambridge 3-lead EKG chart printout units was replaced with Cambridge 12-lead EKG machines and later replaced with the Life-Pak 2's which featured a larger EKG scope, but no EKG printout. Metro also purchased an existing house on 14th St, NW at State St and constructed a new four-bay (2-vehicle deep) garage and relocated its former 1070 Spring St. office to this new facility. Metro also opened a station in the far North Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs on Hammond Drive near Roswell Road as Sandy Springs Ambulance Service. This station remained active for only a short time due to the strong presence of long-time funeral homes ambulance service to the area. Metro also sent five of its seasoned medics to Georgia's first basic state mandated EMT basic course in the Fall of 1971 at Dekalb Technical Institute. Based on Metro's success and the Georgia Attorney's General (AG) Opinion, Georgia's next paramedic program was instituted in 1971 at the South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta, followed by Augusta's University Hospital EMS in 1972.

       (1973-1980) Metro Ambulance Service Continues EMS Evolution


    In 1973, Metro Ambulance Service took delivery on a Cortez "Mobile Emergency Room" intensive care unit which was built on a specially designed R/V chassis by the Miller/Meteor Corporation in Piqua, Ohio. Metro received delivery on two Chevrolet Starliner raised-roof suburban ambulances then ordered seventeen-(17) additional raised roof Chevy trucks and Dodge vans. A Metro Ambulance Station was opened in Carrollton, GA about 60 miles west of Atlanta with two paramedic level ambulances. This same year, the paramedic concept was adopted by Dr. Luther Vinton, Medical Director for the newly established Dekalb County Fire Departments as they established their first three ambulances in 1973 and this program was then instituted Newton County in 1974.

    The early medics from these services displayed the word "PARAMEDIC" on their organization patches as well as below the state basic EMT patch. This rocker was not issued by the state EMS office, but became prominent. This was largely in part due to early television nightly news presentations and the debut of the February-1972 NBC television program "EMERGENCY!" with Randolph Mantooth and Kevin Tighe who portrayed the folklore iconic hero's "Johnny Gage" and "Roy Desoto" of the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Paramedic Program. Metro Ambulance Service also purchased several portable NICAD battery Motorola 20 watt "Orange Box" Voice/EKG telemetry units for use by paramedics. In addition to the Motorola “Orange Box” units, two Motorola HT-220 telemetry talkies were also built for Metro. These units could only transmit on one or four frequencies and sent the EKG directly to the hospital without being relayed through the ambulance. Then the word "Cardiac Technician" began to emerge and Georgia would not enact state-wide advanced life support permissive laws until 1976.

    In the early 70's, Metro also provided all paramedic ambulance coverage at the Ga. Tech Stadium, Atlanta Stadium and the expansive downtown OMNI Arena. There were accounts of famous individuals such as Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller and Dinah Shore coming to the OMNI to perform. When they arrived, they saw the stationed Metro paramedics and wanted to look inside the ambulance and see what a paramedic unit actually looked like. With the NBC Show "EMERGENCY!", the fictitious actor paramedics were now America's latest heros and these entertainers wanted to see what "real paramedics actually looked like in Atlanta."

    Again, with the absence of such formal paramedic authorizing legislation in 1970, the Georgia AG opinion had took on the force of law until 1976. In that year, due to political influence, Georgia elected to call such personnel "Advanced EMT's" instead of "paramedic" which, by this time had alreadybecome fully embedded in American society and also formally legislated the legal creation of "Cardiac Technicians." In 1973, Metro installed a custom Motorola two position communications console in its still small 2-person dispatch office and reopened its Sandy Springs station on Vernon Woods Drive with a new Horton Modular Van paramedic ambulance. A station was also opened further North in the town of Roswell. In 1974, the service received delivery on an experimental Chinook R/V chassis ambulance built by American Coach Corporation which featured a fiberglass shell body which was initially assigned to Marietta and then later to a newly opened Norcross station in Metro Atlanta's Gwinnett County. In the mid 70's, a station was also opened at the newly completed Atlanta-West Medical Center, just inside Douglas County about 20 miles West of Atlanta.

    In the early 70's, the FCC formally established twelve UHF channels for EKG/voice telemetry and ambulance dispatching. The channels that the FCC adopted had previously been used as Interstate Highway "Emergency Call Box" channels in Florida and elsewhere. In 1975-76, pursuant to a Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) Grant from the Federal Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare (DHEW) Metro received funding to install Motorola MICOR UHF duplex voice/EKG telemetry radios that used a portable 1 watt Motorola handheld MT500 radio to send the EKG signal to a vehicle mounted repeater. All Atlanta hospitals also received voice/telemetry base stations as assigned to either "MED1, 2, 3 or 4." At this time, Metro Ambulance changed to a new UHF dispatching system on "MED 9", a tactical channel on "MED 5" and a new Motorola Communications console in Marietta. In 1977, Metro opened a station on Piedmont Road at "Tower Place" in Buckhead and another station at West Paces ferry Hospital in Northwest Atlanta. In 1978, Pounds closed the Tower Place station and established Station 6 as Starlife Ambulance Service and placed two paramedic level ambulances into service serving the North Atlanta Buckhead area. metro also opened a station in Dekalb County as Central Dekalb Ambulance Service.. 

    By this time, all Metro ambulances were at the paramedic patient care level. In 1979, Metro Ambulance Service placed into service "Lifebird 1" which was Georgia's first commercially operated medical helicopter ambulance. Metro had also also replaced the original Cortez/M&M MICU with a new short wheelbase GMC MICU built on an R/V chassis as Car 101. This unit was replaced in the 80’s by a much longer wheelbase MICU and designated as Car 102 and then by an even longer Car 103. Later Car 104 was placed in service which was built on a medium heavy duty truck chassis. Throughout the 80's Metro Ambulance Service continued to add ambulance station both in Fulton (Transmed), Cobb, Clayton (General Ambulance Service), Dekalb and Gwinnett Counties making Metro one of the largest ambulance services in the United States.

 

(1978) METRO AMBULANCE SERVICE TAKES OVER THE CITY OF TULSA PARAMEDIC AMBULANCE SERVICE

    Because of Metro Ambulance Service’s historic success in establishing one of the largest paramedic ambulance services in America, in 1978 the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Emergency Medical Service Authority (EMSA) selected Metro to take over the city’s public ambulance service. The city had decided to take this action when the long-standing local provider had decided not to bid and Metro was awarded the contract. Bo Pounds then assigned Art Wiggins and John Fulton to relocate to Tulsa and quickly establish the new service. However, upon arrival, they found that most of the available Tulsa paramedics were still employed by the former local city provider and declined to work for Metro. This resulted in Wiggins and Fulton embarking on a massive nation-wide recruitment campaign which quickly produced the needed candidates. They were then required to pass the State of Oklahoma National Registry-Paramedic written, oral and practical exams prior to assignment to a Metro Tulsa EMSA paramedic unit. Metro then quickly took over the former contract and initiated city-wide service which was recognized by the late Jim Page in his book “The Paramedics” due to the historic accomplishment of using a then unheard of revolutionary concept.

EMSA's Jack Stout and Steve Williamson had worked together to develop the first system in the United States that would utilize a new concept called System Status Management . This used fluid deployment, versus static deployment to strategically position Metro paramedic staffed ambulances throughout the City of Tulsa. With the system, EMSA was able to analyze past chronological demand (both the time of day and the day of week when calls were received) and geographical demand (the physical location where ambulances were needed) to determine where and when ambulances will be needed during a given time period of a 24 hour period. This required constant real-time adjustment to deployment and staffing patterns in order to meet the needs of the community. Another Metro Ambulance Service veteran, Bobby Peardon was later assigned by Metro to manage the Tulsa operation.       

(1980-1990) Metro Ambulance Service Continues EMS Evolution 

    In the early 80's, Metro expanded its helicopter and air ambulance fleet and changed over to mostly Horton van ambulances except for a few other vehicles inclusing a1980 Dodge DIVCO Medicruiser that had been purchased in 1980. A station had also been opened in Austell as well as at Wendy Hill Hospital by the early 80's. By 1985, Metro decided to change over to Wheeled Coach Ford van ambulances and continued this trend on through the 80's. Metro also constructed a new large dispatch center with four positions and constructed its own maintenance shop, full workouy gym and proceeded to purchase adjoining houses on Armstrong Street as it headquarters complex expanded. Metro also experimented with a new joint venture with two North Atlanta medical centers. Metro repainted the Sandy Springs station ambulance in the Northside Hospital color scheme and lettering. It also did the same for the ambulance based in Roswell by repainting and relettering it in the North Fulton Medical Center color scheme.

(1990-94) The Metro Ambulance Service Legend Ends 

    In the 90's, Metro Ambulance continued its history of innovative ultra-modern technology and trained medics. By now, its Marietta headquarters complex nearly encompassed nearly an entire city block as Metro continued to purchase existing residential houses to use as offices as well as tear some down and construct new utility buildings. In 1994, Metro Ambulance Service was purchased by California based CareLine EMS which ended a historic era in our Nation's EMS history. CareLine was soon purchased by the Laidlaw Corporation which had already bought the American Medical Response (AMR) name and then consolidated CareLine into the AMR logo. Metro Ambulance Service, Edgar H. "Bo" Pounds, Luther Fortson, MD and the fraternal culture of Metro medics will long be remembered as pioneers for their historic contributions to our Nation's EMS.

Story & Photo Credits: Marietta Daily Journal and Edgar H. Pounds Archives

Greatful appreciation to the late Ronald Goldman, Jr., MD for sharing the archives of his father,( the late Ronald Goldman, Sr. who was a collegue of Dr. Luther Fortson as part of the Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation from 1960 to 1972) for providing historical information accounts. Greatful appreciation to T.D. Barlett for providing his background archives and photos from 1970-1975.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keywords: Metro Ambulance, Bo Pounds, Georgia, marietta, paramedic, ambulance, jane carter Luther Fortson, Tulsa, Steve Willismson, Ronald Goldman, Sr., MD, kennestone

Last Revision Date: 2/26/11 - 8:12 PM

13 Memory Shared

Report AbusePosted by Snake Doctor on Thursday, October 27, 2011 08:41 PM Pacific
Great article but there also needs to be mention of Metro's involvement in the establishment of EMSA ambulance service in Tulsa. OK in 1978. Without the Metro management and guidance that system would not have developed into the nationally recognized EMS system that it holds to this day. The city had decided to take over the ambulance service and the local provider had decided not to bid on the program and Metro won the contract. Bo sent Art Wiggins and John Fulton to Tulsa to hire enough medics to get the EMSA ambulance service up and running. It was a great challenge since most of the medics worked for the local provider and refused to work for Metro. We had to hire medics from all over the country just to get enough bodies to open the doors. Every person we hired had to pass the written, oral and practical exam before we could put them on a truck and we needed all of them to open the doors. That was an exciting time and great experience. John Fulton
Report AbusePosted by kscems911 on Monday, February 20, 2012 01:08 PM Pacific
Boy, I remember those Chevy Suburbans from the early 1970s. Not much patient room but, in rural West Virginia, they came in handy with 4-wheel-drive and a small footprint. Working a cardiac arrest in those things was a bitch.
Report AbusePosted by Edmiston on Monday, February 20, 2012 01:08 PM Pacific
After Bo Pounds sold Metro, he was going to retire, but he now owns Gold Cross EMS in Augusta, Ga. If you are ever in the Augusta area I would recommend for anyone who has a passion about EMS to stop in the Wheeler Rd. office and see his large collection of Antiques, everything from horse drawn to the modern units. It is a must see. You can all so see some of them at www.goldcrossems.com under the Gallery Gold Cross EMS, Inc.4328 Wheeler Road Martinez, Georgia 30907 Phone: (706) 434-4000
Report AbusePosted by antiquemedic on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 09:46 AM Pacific
The ambulance service which was already in Tulsa was Central Ambulance. After Metro came in they began a helicopter and fixed wing service as well as ground long distance transfers. I worked for both Metro and Central (at the same time) even though there was a rivalry between the two. I am trying to remember Pat's last name, he owned Central (oldtimers kicked in). Randy Hunt was the chief RN/Paramedic at Central. Doug Drury was the helicopter pilot.
Report AbusePosted by LgDietDrPepper on Saturday, April 14, 2012 10:49 PM Pacific
I had the honor and privilege to get hired by Metro as a dispatcher during my EMT class at Marietta-Cobb VoTech...I was "dualing" EMT school while wrapping up my senior year in High School. Talk about GREEN!!! Finally made it to Car 28 when I got EMT numbers. But during those dispatch years, I got to enjoy not only being part of this history, but also listening to Bo play his then-favorite instrument. I won't give it away here, in case someone has some trivia game they want to play, but it was my favorite instrument as well. Also loved the moments when Bo would allow me to linger in his office at 595 musing the collection he had at that time. Can't wait to see what's been collected at Martinez since those days nearly 30 years ago.
Report AbusePosted by firepatches on Friday, April 27, 2012 07:23 PM Pacific
I just learned a lot about Metro, stuff I'm sure I'd never have known without this article. I never worked for them in Atlanta, but I remember them when I started in EMS in 1994. If I would of lived on the north side of town I would of applied with them, but living in Newnan, it would of been a haul. I'm a huge fire and EMS patch collector of Georgia services. I have one of the old Metro patches but I'm looking for the one that has Cobb and Fulton on the bottom of the patch. Also am looking to see if they ever had metal badges, if so I'd like to get a hold of one. I have over 3000 GA fire and EMS patches in my collection. If anyone can help me, e/m at firepatches@aol.com. Thanks.
Report AbusePosted by nukehpt on Sunday, May 27, 2012 08:24 PM Pacific
Working for Metro was one of the best times of my life and Bo was a great man to work for you know where you stood with him. I worked for Metro in the mid seventys All he seemed to want is to make it better I worked out of the Mabelton, Marietta, Atlanta ,and i guess pretty much all of them , i was there when he got the mobile intensive care unit I drove it at one point in time it was awsome to know what we could do with that unit He only wanted the best for the people and provided us with the best.Was there when we changed patches and still have both of them today and Two Metro jackets that i will keep forever.I have driven Car 25,44.29.61-W,28, I know what insturment he liked to play and have herd him play several times.Remember the Thumper and auto CPR devise we use at one point in time. Proud to have been a part of all the history there.Alot of memories !!!
Report AbusePosted by fishman on Friday, August 10, 2012 10:42 AM Pacific
i still have my emt patch ,card,and renewal cards...emt # 191 Georgia..
Report AbusePosted by Number11 on Friday, December 07, 2012 07:06 PM Pacific
Not only was Bo influential in the EMT world, he was also big in the ametuer baseball world. I played baseball for him with the Cardinals and will never forget how he taught us things about baseball and life. He gave us the opportunity to travel and do what we loved.
Report AbusePosted by ambulance1947 on Saturday, June 22, 2013 09:22 AM Pacific
I got to meet Bo in 1969. I had to sale my ambulance service [Metro] in Kansas City Wyandotte County Kansas as the good old Uncle Sam called my number for the army. After basic training I was sent to Fort Lee for school and then to Sharp Army Depot in Forrest Park GA. I worked part time for Mitchell Ambulance Service and knew the owner of Jones Ambulance Service. We would get free movie tickets to most of the theaters in the Atlanta Area, one day I had them for a theater in Marietta, as I drove around the city, long before GPS, I saw a Metro A.S. office, so I just had to stop in as there was a big red & white Cadillac in the drive in. I went in and told the owner that I owned a service in Kansas City and was not in the army. The man was Bo, what a nice person to give me the time to visit with me and show me the ambulance. I thank I still have a picture of him and a business card he gave me, been a long time since 1969. I now live part time in Austria and Missouri and still have to stop and look when I rear a siren to see what kind of ambulance is on a run. But the good old days of the Cads, Buick's, Pontiac's and Olds are long gone. I had them all when I was in business. Some were combo's, station wagons, custom made ambulance and I was the first service in the Metro KC Area to have a custom high top, I bought it from Shaffer's Ambulance Service in Los Angeles.
Report AbusePosted by MarshaWC on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 08:26 AM Pacific
I am searching for the EMT that delivered my daughter on the side of Old Mountain road in Kennesaw in July of 1980.... I think his first name was Bob...
Report AbusePosted by GBryanD on Saturday, February 08, 2014 08:23 PM Pacific
In response to MarshaWC, I am almost positive that the child born on Old Mountain Rd in Kennesaw was delivered by Bob (Robert) Bennett. The last I knew of Bob he had moved to Nashville, TN, but that was many years ago. So far as the topic of this article... Thanks for the memories, those were some good times and some very bad times.
Report AbusePosted by JRateohone on Sunday, February 09, 2014 08:58 AM Pacific
The first EMT class in Georgia had their paperwork mixed up, and they didn't get the first EMT numbers like they should have. The instructor was out of Texas.

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