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Gold Cross seeks primary ambulance license for Augusta-Richmond County

Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 9:04 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 1:52 AM
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Gold Cross ambulance service is trying to position itself to run 911 calls in Augusta without a contract with the city, according to Richmond County Fire Chief Chris James.

James   Emily Rose Bennett
Emily Rose Bennett

On Thursday, the East Central Georgia EMS Council will discuss a letter from Gold Cross requesting that it become the primary zone provider in the area, a standing the company currently shares with the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department.

If Gold Cross were the primary provider, Augusta’s 911 center would have to send emergency calls to it whether or not it has a contract with the city, James said.

“Gold Cross would have no reason to have a contract with us if this goes through,” said Jody Smither­man, of the city’s law department. “It will eliminate Augusta, Ga.’s ability to make any decisions in regard to its EMS service.”

James has requested the council put off a decision until a February meeting to give the department adequate time to respond. A zoning subcommittee will meet Thursday and make a recommendation to the full council. A decision will be shared with the Georgia Department of Public Health, said Gary Pinard, the zoning chairman and Screven County’s EMS coordinator.

“The situation in Augusta-Rich­mond County is unique,” said Nancy Nydam, of the public health department, in an e-mail. “They are the only county with zone co-providers. This means that Gold Cross and Augusta Fire currently cover all of Richmond County. If Gold Cross were to become the sole zone provider, they would not need a contract to answer 911 calls. Whether Gold Cross has a contract with the city, or it doesn’t, the 911 calls go to the zone provider.”

In August, Gold Cross owner Bo Pounds said he was pursuing ideas on how to run his business in Richmond County without a contract with the city.

“We don’t need it,” he said.

Gold Cross’ letter, dated July 25, was stamped as delivered to Lawanna Mercer-Cobb, the program director of the Georgia Office of EMS for Au­gusta’s region, on Aug. 6. James learned of the letter’s existence Oct. 19, he said.

In the letter, Gold Cross CEO Vince Brogdon said, “Augusta Fire has repeatedly failed to staff at least one of its two licensed ambulances,” which is the minimum allowed to keep the ambulance license.

James said he was not aware of the rule until a month after he became chief and Mercer-Cobb told him of it. That day, March 1, he began staffing its Rescue 1 ambulance full time.

During the seven years Gold Cross and the city have shared the ambulance license, the Georgia Depart­ment of Public Health has never received a complaint about the fire department’s ambulances being out of service, Nydam said.

Brogdon says in the letter that “Gold Cross does not believe that a zone provider who staffs just one ambulance in a county with a population and call volume found in Richmond County should be considered a co-zone provider.”

Richmond County has always held the license and subcontracted the calls, Smitherman said. She said other area counties work the same way.

“If they were concerned, they should have brought this up seven years ago,” she said.

In fact, she argued, having the dual zones means Augusta has access to two extra ambulances, the fire department’s Rescue 1 and 2.

Columbia County lost its primary zone provider status and has not been able to get it back, James said.

Smitherman said she and James will argue that the committee is not allowed to change zoning until certain steps are taken, including having a local member on the zoning committee.

The situation is scary, James said.

“They are taking the citizen’s voice out of the equation,” he said.


Thursday’s meetings are open to the public.

WHAT: Zoning sub­com­mittee meeting

WHEN: 11 a.m.

WHAT: Full committee meeting

WHEN: 1 p.m.

WHERE: East Central Health District office, 1916 North Leg Road, Building D

Comments (7) Add comment
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OpenCurtain 10/31/12 - 08:03 am
Not every time you eliminate Government are things better.

It will be interesting to see how this works out.

It is part politics , power and control, part common sense, and part $$$.

curly123053 10/31/12 - 08:14 am
Augusta Commission Failure

Augusta-Richmond County should have started their own full ambulance service with the fire department a long time ago and allow the private services to do all the non-emergent transports as most major American cities do. I guess the Augusta Commission does not consider Augusta as one of those major American cities if they allow a private for profit ambulance provider to control their 911 EMS system.

tgentry 10/31/12 - 08:32 am
Gold Cross is going to far.

In my mind this is a scary thing. Number one I do not want a private ambulance company in full control of medical 911 calls. We need our first responders as well as the 2 Fire ambulances we have. We need more Fire/Paramedics in our department. I cant see how anyone would want all that responsibility to fall on a Ambulance company that today may be in a full swing business, but tomorrow may be gone.

I still see issues with Gold Cross response times already. Remember they will call off the First Responders saying they are on scene when in fact they are not.

I will take tomorrow off to attend this meeting. I'm very curious on how this works out.

soapy_725 10/31/12 - 08:40 am
What is in a name?

In ARC a contract equals nothing. Meaningless paper waste. A government in constant flux cannot work with contracts. The golf capital of the world exists on mulligans.

betcha2 10/31/12 - 08:40 am
"RAW DEAL" = MONOPOLY - the real story

Contracts are good. They set the obligations of the parties involved. After the contract was viewed as a "raw deal" for Augusta, in comparsion to other local counties, and Gold Cross was expected to follow the terms of the contract, Gold Cross decides it does not want a contract. Doesn' that speak volumes as to the merits of the contract? What happens if there is no contract and the area is zoned for one provider? Doesn't that equate to Gold Cross having a monopoly over the ambulance service? No price regulation, no standard of services, and no competition!

soapy_725 10/31/12 - 08:55 am
Not one single individual in local government reads

a single piece of government related documentation. Oh, I didn't know that was in that document. Who writes the stuff? Can they read what they have written?

We would bet money that once the leaders leave a commission meeting (if they attend) they do not touch a piece of government related paper.

They do have to because the taxpayers do not hold them accountable for malfeasance in office. Dereliction of duty. Fiduciary Responsibility. Childish blather. The dog ate my copy. I did not understand what I voted for when I voted.

rmwhitley 10/31/12 - 09:27 am
Bo Pounds

is a friend of mine. He is a friend to Augusta and Richmond county. Just ask those on Barton Chapel Rd., Laney-Walker Blvd., what physical condition they would be in without Gold Cross. Richmond county's government leaders are trying to take you on the same course as Clayton county. For those of you not familiar with Clayton county, I'd take a crash (no pun intended) course into their fiscal and educational capabilities. How many people will die on Mike Padgett Hwy. with Richmond county fire and ambulance services, being the zone provider?

daphne3520 10/31/12 - 11:20 am
You Go!!!!! Gold Cross! Capitol City Ambulance in

North Augusta Owners have a son who is a REGISTERED sex offender!

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 10/31/12 - 11:55 am

From the story:

James has requested the council put off a decision until a February meeting to give the department adequate time to respond.

Well, if they can put this proposal off till February, they certainly could put Riverfront LLC's proposal for TEE Center management until February. No harm, no foul.

SemperParatus 10/31/12 - 10:31 pm
University Hospital

Once upon a time University Hospital operated the ambulance service in Augusta-Richmond County. As University Hospital is the "county hospital", I would suggest that it look into taking the contract away from privately owned Gold Cross. I'm not a "big government" person but I will say that the government has the responsibility for public safety. It should operate EMS.

Tla8750 11/08/12 - 05:44 pm
University hospital wants

University hospital wants nothing to do with EMS! Just ask Mcduffie County!

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