County Commission Still Contemplating Future of Ambulance Service

July 24, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The county emergency services committee may be having second thoughts about bringing the ambulance service back under the county's control.

County Mayor Mike Foster says running the ambulance service could be a costly endeavor for the county and more study is needed before any action is taken by the county commission. But time is running short because Sumner Regional Medical Center will officially cease operation of the DeKalb County Ambulance Service within a few weeks.

Foster, during Monday night's county commission meeting, said cost estimates are still being compiled. "I got information from eleven counties. We based our budget on numbers that we got from them as well as some that I got from Sumner County General. The guy that helps us with budgets also did a budget. We all came up with some pretty scary numbers. We're seeing that the number of (ambulance) runs was around 2,600. We've averaged other counties revenues and we have estimates from ambulance directors in other counties, and they estimate that we should average $260 per run. If we do that, we come up with revenues of about $676,000. When we run (cost) numbers for the staff, secretary, director, benefits, materials, fuel, and repairs, we come up with a number in excess of $1-million,031-thousand dollars. The first year we would have to buy three heart monitors for approximately $41,000 and we would continue to buy an ambulance, so that's another $136,000. There is an EMS software program that's about $12,000 per year, or if we contract with someone to collect it (billing), they charge seven percent, which would be about $47,000, but the EMS consultants would furnish the software. It's one of those things that we've got to look at and we've got to do it fairly quickly. This is a very important thing and we're probably taking a little more time than some people would like to see, but we're concerned about this. If we take the money that we're currently contributing ($163,00 per year) away from the numbers we're talking about, we still show losing somewhere between $328,000 and $400,000 and we're not comfortable with that."

Foster says he and members of the commission will hold an informal workshop on the issue again Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. at the courthouse.

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