Committee Again Votes to Recommend That County Assume Operation of EMS

August 3, 2007
Dwayne Page

The County Emergency Services committee Thursday night again voted to recommend to the county commission that the ambulance service be brought back under the county's control.

The committee made the same recommendation last month but some members began to have second thoughts after considering the potential cost to the county.

County Mayor Mike Foster says after further study, committee members now feel more confident with their decision.

The vote Thursday night was 5 to 1. Committee members voting in favor were Larry Summers, Elmer Ellis, Jr., Wayne Cantrell, Jeff Barrett, and Jerry Scott. Willie Thomas voted against it.

Foster says two private companies, Pro Med and Trans Med were interested in contracting with the county and presented proposals for the committee to consider. However, Foster says committee members felt more comfortable with the county running the ambulance service. "Trans Med was an attractive offer except they wanted a $300,000 a year supplement. Pro Med was an attractive option. They wanted a $65,000 supplement. The committee wants to maintain a really good service like we have had, which has been run by Sumner Regional. We don't get many complaints about the ambulance service. We get good reports about them. In the past we were having some reports that the prices were too high but we talked to them about it six or eight months ago and they reduced those prices. We want to establish rates that are fairly common with our neighbors. We've got to keep in mind what the TennCare and Medicare rates are and base our prices on what they pay. The primary concern is that we have a line of continuity, that we don't miss a beat when we change employers. We feel like we can do a smoother transition with the county running it than we can with a complete new company coming in that might bring in new employees and shuffle these (current) employees around."

According to Foster, "The first year will probably be a little more expensive. We have been supplementing it (ambulance service) by $163,000 a year plus buying a new ambulance each year. You have to keep in mind that this is not a money making proposition. It's a service to the people of the county. We would like for it to break even, but we're realistic enough to know that it probably won't. We will probably still subsidize it somewhere between $155,000 and $200,000 plus the purchase of an ambulance each year. This entire ambulance service will probably cost the county about $1.1 million a year. We're hoping it will bring in revenue of $900,000 a year. When the county ran it (ambulance service) several years ago, it was losing a great deal of money. We have got to run it as a business. The secret to it is to collect as much of the fees as are due, but that we keep the fees lower than a private company would have."

Sumner Regional, which has been operating the DeKalb Ambulance Service for several years, will be giving up the operation this fall.

The county commission will be asked to approve the committee's recommendation at the next meeting on Monday, August 27th at 6:30 p.m.

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