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Ambulance service agrees to new contract terms

Monday, July 29, 2013 7:20 PM
Last updated 8:17 PM
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A residents’ group and Augusta Fire Chief Chris James are getting stricter contract language in a new agreement with Gold Cross EMS, the city’s ambulance provider since 2006.

“Emergency services is a watershed issue,” said Sam­mie Sias of the Richmond Coun­ty Neighborhood Al­liance, which petitioned the Augusta Commission last year to revisit a self-renewing contract James said was too vague to enforce. “If these conditions are strictly adhered to, it will be better for the citizens of Augusta-Richmond County.”

The new terms, negotiated and presented to commissioners Monday by City Administrator Fred Russell, require Gold Cross to maintain 240 ambulance hours a day in Richmond County, with a minimum of 10 ambulances between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. and a minimum of six ambulances in non-peak hours. Sixty percent of the ambulances are required to carry Advanced Life Support equipment and personnel.

The new terms also require Gold Cross to provide real-time data about its ambulances to Augusta 911, to tell 911 when it is down to two ambulances or fewer and to enter agreements with other EMS providers to supplement the service when it has no ambulances available.

Another change, which a commission committee authorized Russell to incorporate into a new EMS contract, is that Russell, not James, will serve as contract administrator and ensure the terms are met.

James did not respond to calls seeking comment about the terms.

Gold Cross CEO Vince Brog­don said the Martinez-based company had a “great working relationship” with Russell, a former deputy police chief.

Gold Cross agreed to reduce the annual subsidy it charges Augusta to cover unreimbursed, uninsured patient fees, now $1.2 million annually, by $400,000 over three years. Brogdon said Gold Cross couldn’t go lower or eliminate the subsidy because as many as 70 percent of Richmond County ambulance calls are “no-pay,” uncollectible calls.

Brogdon said the firm also can’t guarantee placement of 100 percent Advanced Life Support ambulances because of a nationwide shortage of certified paramedics.

“The issue in this area is there is no paramedic school,” he said.

After James and the alliance raised issues about the contract last year, the Au­gusta Com­mission voted to notify Gold Cross of its intent to terminate and re-bid the ambulance contract. In June, however, commissioners voted 6-4 to suspend the procurement process and have Russell try to renegotiate a new contract with Gold Cross.

Commissioner Alvin Ma­son, who opposed the vote to renegotiate with Gold Cross, said in Monday’s public safety committee meeting that the city could have found a better deal if it had allowed the procurement process to continue.

Commissioner Bill Lock­ett asked Russell why the fire chief, who was critical a year ago of the EMS contract, was no longer contract administrator.

“I’m not sure I have a good why or not,” Russell said.

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nocnoc 07/29/13 - 07:44 pm
240 ambulance hours per day

10 units 24/7 covering ARC let that sink in a little, an average of 10 units for all of ARC. But how will this be monitored and by whom?

WOW the story also says 70 percent of Richmond County ambulance calls are “no-pay,” noncollectable calls.

Knowing that every city has its share of Med-a-Wagon abuse
could the stub toe/I got head ache/ cut finger callers be fined for abuse?

corgimom 07/30/13 - 03:29 am
6 units at night, to serve

6 units at night, to serve 200,000.

Hope Augustans stay healthy and accident-free at night.

rmwhitley 07/30/13 - 09:54 am
If you

will only look at the majority of the calls for ambulance service, you will find that almost 70% percent come from da hood. They can't or wont give up their welfare check for ambulance service. Since the white man has officially "adopted" all poor black folk, they get free ambulance services on the backs of those who work legitimately for a living, both white and black.

Sweet son
Sweet son 07/30/13 - 12:37 pm

We don't want Alvin Mason's low bid ambulance service and we also don't want Chief James in charge of any of this service. He should just look at his organization and work on ways to make it as good as the Gold Cross Company!

Bo Pounds, CEO, and Gold Cross have been good neighbors in Richmond and Columbia Counties.

lsmith 07/30/13 - 01:25 pm
Additional Requirement

Gold Cross complains about 70 percent of their calls being no pay or noncollectable. I feel so sorry for them. The county should require that Gold Cross or whomever is hired for ambulance service negotiate in-network agreements with all major health insurance carriers. To my knowledge Gold Cross has almost no agreements, hence low insurance reimbursements, paid as "out of network". Gold Cross routinely sets rates very high , I guess to help cover those who don't have insurance and that's why they don't get in-network status. Insurance company pays about half the inflated bill and gold cross sends the collectors after the remainder.

rmwhitley 07/30/13 - 05:33 pm
I'm proud

to call Bo Pounds my friend. He is a man of great integrity.

TakeAHike 07/31/13 - 12:31 am
Watch out for more rate hikes!

So Russell cuts the nonpayment subsidy instead of looking out for the pocketbooks of Augusta citizens and guests. Gold Cross already gouges responsible people who have full coverage insurance plans. If you are in an accident in Augusta, be prepared to be screwed when you get their bill. They won't play nice with your insurance company and don't care what are reasonable and customary charges. They know that if they pick you up they can squeeze you for whatever you're worth. And they will. They charge higher rates than EMS services in much more expensive cities and they are out of network with all insurance companies so they don't have to answer to anyone.
Shame on you Fred Russell for not sending out an RFP for competitive bid and stipulating that they must be in network with the health insurance providers of 95% of local employers. You're not only complicit in their scam but you've just made it worse.

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