Some local activists are passing around a petition to get the Augusta Commission to look at the city’s ambulance contract.
Melvin Ivey, the president of the Richmond County Neighborhood Alliance, said the organization has started a petition to have the contract between Gold Cross ambulance service and Augusta amended to include details it believes are missing.
“We discovered we don’t have all the provisions that we really need,” Ivey said. “The contract is really wide open.”
His example was Gold Cross’ contract with Columbia County, in which the company guarantees at least five ambulances in the county at all times and details where they are housed. There is no comparable guarantee in Augusta’s contract, Ivey said.
“We want the people who negotiated the contract to be held responsible for it,” Ivey said.
Ivey also said he believes that Augusta Fire Chief Chris James, who is the contract’s administrator, does not have the tools he needs in the contract to properly police it, something the chief said earlier this year.
In July, James told The Augusta Chronicle that although the contract requires Gold Cross to place each call in a priority category of 1, 2 or 3, it does not define what each priority entails, such as a life-threatening situation or non-emergency. James said that would be the only way to determine whether the ambulance service is adequately getting to the scene on a timely basis. The priorities are defined in Columbia County’s contract.
The petition, written to both the commission members and the regional EMS council has three “demands”:
• No monopoly of the 911 Emergency Medical Services: “Stop the Gold Cross takeover.”
• A new contract for 911 EMS in Richmond County
• Richmond County must be the sole primary provider of the 911 EMS to allow “true and competitive subcontracting.”
Ivey said the organization became aware of the contract issues after Gold Cross submitted a request to become the primary zone provider, a standing the company shares with the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department.
The move would have meant Gold Cross could run 911 calls in Augusta without a contract. In November, the decision went before the East Central Georgia EMS Council, which decided to honor James and the city attorney’s request to postpone a decision until February.
During the November meeting, council members were informed they could not administratively give the zone to Gold Cross but would have to open it to all ambulance services. Four days later, Gold Cross withdrew its request after a meeting with James and city Administrator Fred Russell.
Sammie Sias, the president of Sandridge Community Association and a member of the neighborhood alliance, said he hopes to get thousands of signatures before the petitions are presented to the commission at month’s end.
Sias said they are hoping to get the conversation started within the commission before the East Central Georgia EMS Council meets again in February.
“There are some details missing from the contract,” Sias said. “Things that aren’t missing from other area contracts.”
Ivey and Sias said the neighborhood alliance, which represents about 30 Augusta neighborhoods, is handling the petition drive.
“You have to cover all your bases when it comes to emergencies,” Ivey said. “That contract is not doing that.”