3 seek to provide in Augusta EMS Zone

Priority Care EMS joins Gold Cross, fire department

A third name has jumped in the ring to provide ambulance service to Augusta-Richmond County residents, but the state will make the final decision about who services the county.

The Region 6 EMS Council reviewed submissions Wednesday from emergency medical service providers seeking to be “zone provider” in Augusta under a state system designed to prevent duplication of services and settle disputes between companies.

Current provider Gold Cross EMS and Augusta Fire Department each bid for the service, but joining the contest Wednesday was Priority Care EMS.

According to Priority Care owner Melissa Oden, who attended the council meeting, the company is based in Wrens and has two existing EMS substations on Deans Bridge Road and Pleasant Home Road.

Priority Care bid to provide EMS service in a five-mile radius around the two substations, Oden said.

In 2012 at the urging of Fire Chief Chris James, the Augusta Commission sought new bids from ambulance providers. A few months later, however, the commission decided instead to renegotiate with Gold Cross, and earlier this year voted to award the Martinez EMS service a contract to serve the entire county.

As commissioners were making that decision, however, the EMS Council, a regional body, voted to reopen Augusta’s EMS “zone” to bids. One of the reasons was to alleviate a prior council decision to name both the county and Gold Cross as “co-zone” providers.

Council Chairman John Graham said the group will make a recommendation based only on the information provided by bidders, but the final decision will be made by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

City Administrator Fred Russell said he’d been finalizing a contract with Gold Cross, as the commission voted for him to do. If the council’s decision conflicts with the contract, Russell said he didn’t think Augusta was under any obligation to pay the other provider, which instead must rely on health insurance and other claims to be paid for the service.

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