Foster Pleased with County Run Ambulance Service

August 2, 2008
Dwayne Page

Ten months after the county assumed control of the ambulance service, County Mayor Mike Foster says he and others are pleased with the operation.

"Everybody has been pretty well pleased with it. We're really happy with the employees. A lot of them are local and they have a lot of pride in it. We're getting a new ambulance any day. The building (new ambulance service location) has worked out really well. The employees seem to be satisfied with it."

Foster added that the collection rate on billing has also been good. " From the numbers that we have billed, which started in October, we have an 82% collection rate. Before, it was costing the county about $180,000 plus an ambulance every year when (Sumner Regional Medical Center) was running it. I think when we get at the end of a solid year where we can really tell how revenues and expenses have run, I think we'll be near that (previous costs). It'll be at least be a break even. The cost of a new ambulance is about $98,000. We also did a remount on one (ambulance) for about $59,000 where we buy a truck and take our box and put on that truck. The running gear and all that is new but the box is the same."

Last year, Sumner Regional Regional Medical Center, which had been under contract to operate the local EMS service, decided to get out of the ambulance business in DeKalb County. Sumner Regional was providing the service for $163,000 per year, and the county, which owns the ambulances, bought a new one each year. Sumner Regional also rented the ambulance service building for $600 per month.

After considering proposals from other companies to take over the operation of the ambulance service, the county commission decided that it would be better if the county ran it. The county did approve an agreement with EMS Consultants to do the billing for the ambulance service. EMS Consultants receives a fee of 6.5% of accounts collected.

The county also bought and renovated a building for the new home of the ambulance service at Mountain Street and Meadowbrook Drive.

The proposed 2008-09 budget includes an expenditure of $1.2 million to operate the ambulance service which includes funds to pay a staff of paramedics, EMT's, a director, a secretary, and to buy a new ambulance, equipment and to pay for utilities and other costs.

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