Ga. Community Keeps Fire-Based EMS, For Now

Ga. Community Keeps Fire-Based EMS, For Now

News Nov 06, 2012

The Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department will keep its standing as a primary zone provider of ambulances - meaning it controls the county's 911 calls - until at least Feb. 7, the East Central Georgia EMS Council ruled Thursday.

In a meeting at the Public Health office on North Leg Road, members of the council's zoning subcommittee recommended the full council postpone a decision on a request by Gold Cross EMS to effectively control 911 calls in Richmond County. By Georgia Law, the county's 911 dispatch service must send all ambulance calls to the primary provider, whether a contract with the city exists or not. Because the fire department is a primary provider, the city controls 911 calls.

City Administrator Fred Russell attended the meeting because he was concerned that a private provider would be able to run the calls without government input.

"This would eliminate what little control we have through the contract," he said. "To have somebody run 911 calls without input from the local government is borderline ridiculous."

The ruling will give the fire department about 90 days to defend its primary provider status.

Jody Smitherman, an attorney with the city's law department, said she will argue that the request to change the zone is not valid. According to zoning rules, any change in primary provider must present a significant improvement based on economy, efficiency and public welfare. Smitherman said the request takes the fire department's two ambulances out of service, making fewer ambulances available to serve Richmond County.

If the fire department becomes a secondary provider, its ambulances cannot respond to a call without a direct request from the primary provider. Fire Chief Chris James said the ambulances are too expensive to staff if they are never used.

During the meeting, Mickey Moore with the Georgia Department of Public Health informed the subcommittee members they could not open the zone administratively, which they had previously thought possible. If the zone opens, all local ambulance companies are allowed to compete for provider status. Courtney Terwilliger, a subcommittee member and EMS Director at Emanuel County Medical Center, said he was not aware of that.

"If we do open zoning, it will not be an insignificant event," he said. "It will be a difficult journey."

Vince Brogden, the CEO of Gold Cross, said at the meeting that Gold Cross stands behind its request. He said the fire department only runs one ambulance and should not be considered a primary zone provider.

Continue Reading

The zone has been shared by the county and Gold Cross for seven years. When asked why Gold Cross is requesting the change now, Brogden said he did not have a good answer for the timing.

During the meeting, Gary Pinard, the zoning chairman and Screven County EMS coordinator, said he and Terwilliger met with Brogden on Oct. 19 to discuss a letter about Gold Cross' intentions sent to EMS Program Director Lawanna Mercer-Cobb in July. Terwilliger said he and Pinard had hoped the issue had been resolved.

When Brogden told them it wasn't, and Gold Cross wanted to move forward, the two men met with James. Terwilliger said it was apparent it was the first time James had seen the letter.

Smitherman requested the council table the discussion until the next meeting, in February, to give her and James time to prepare a rebuttal. Smitherman also pointed out that a representative from that county must be on the zoning committee when a zoning issue is on the table. Committee members said they were not aware of that rule. EMS council member and Augusta 911 Director Dominick Nutter was placed on the committee.

Dr. Phillip Coule, with Medical College of Georgia Hospital, said he put in his resignation as the Regional EMS director effective Thursday so he could stand behind the fire department without a conflict of interest.

"This is a power play by Gold Cross," he said. "The council made the right call. Decreasing ambulances is not in the public's best interest."

The zoning committee will meet again about two weeks before the Feb. 7 meeting to discuss the issue.

Reach Summer Moore

at (706) 823-3339 or

Copyright 2012 Southeastern Newspapers CorporationAll Rights Reserved

The Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)
Summer Moore Staff Writer
A leading healthcare Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and data provider taps a marketing veteran to support Its rapid growth.
The girl happened to crash into the back of an FDNY ambulance, whose crew members got out and helped her stop the car and revived her father with Narcan.
The 25-year-old woman was found overdosing in her bathroom along with her young son, who needed several doses of Narcan to become responsive and was later discovered to have fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system.
The QuikLitter Lite is designed to be lightweight and compact so multiple litters can be carried simultaneously to a scene.
The highly skilled team members practiced drills inside a local school in preparation for a possible active shooter situation.
Any first responders who are permanently disabled due to injuries that occurred in the line of duty are eligible for a property tax exemption following an amendment to the state's constitution passed last year.
Pulsara has been selected as one of the finalist's in Fierce Innovation Awards for its product Prehospital Alerting Package, an app that allows EMS providers to send patient information to the emergency department en route to the hospital for patient care optimization.
The Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management conducted an exercise for the county's Emergency Operations Center's protocol for recovery efforts following a category 4 hurricane.
Avaya plans to honor the Texas Commission as it sees the adoption of Kari’s Law build across the country, a law which would mandate any company or organization with multi-line telephone systems to provide direct-dial access to 9-1-1.
The company achieves a milestone of its first U.S. regulatory filing for a medical device which would aid in hemostasis and wound care.
Senators will have to vote on multiple amendments on the health care repeal bill.
County commissioners decided to write off over $5 million in uncollectible ambulance bills owed by residents, an amount that has been building since the 1940s.
The amount of deaths caused by substance abuse and mental health issues in the first half of 2017 have surpassed the total deaths of 2016.

The raging wildfires have forced 10,000 residents to evacuate their homes. 

For the first time in my EMS career, I froze.