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Decision postponed on Gold Cross request

Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 5:25 PM
Last updated Friday, Nov. 2, 2012 11:26 AM
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 Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misspelled the last name of Gold Cross CEO Vince Brogdon.

A zoning subcommittee for the East Central Georgia EMS Council discusses a letter from Gold Cross requesting that it become the primary zone provider in the area. The council ruled the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department will keep its standing as a primary zone provider of ambulances in Augusta until at least Feb. 7.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
A zoning subcommittee for the East Central Georgia EMS Council discusses a letter from Gold Cross requesting that it become the primary zone provider in the area. The council ruled the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department will keep its standing as a primary zone provider of ambulances in Augusta until at least Feb. 7.

The Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department will keep its standing as a primary zone provider of ambulances – meaning it can control 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, zoning subcommittee members 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 the zoning rules, the request 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 Brogdon, 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.

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

During the meeting, Gary Pinard, the zoning chair and Screven County EMS coordinator, said he and Terwilliger met with Brogdon 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 Brogdon 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, of the 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.

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Sweet son
10739
Points
Sweet son 11/01/12 - 05:53 pm
4
3
Wimpy Fire Department has One Maybe Two Ambulances!

They have no business trying to venture out of their area of expertise. If you send an ambulance to my residence that says Augusta Fire Department on the side and I can speak I will tell them to go away. Call Gold Cross for me!!! Firefighters should backup 911 calls for ambulances but should not be first responders where critical care is needed. If and only if the Fire Department employs people who are Paramedic certified should they be allowed to operate ambulances in Richmond County. And Fred Russell with his quote about having little control is ridiculous. Chris James, Fred Russell and the Commission have no expertise and no business trying to control a business that is providing quality life saving services to the community. All of them are as bad as Azziz over at MCG in their empire building efforts. Go Bo Pounds and Gold Cross I hope that you prevail over the EMS Council!

TCB22
652
Points
TCB22 11/01/12 - 06:41 pm
3
3
Go Gold Cross!

Sweet son I rarely agree with you but you have hit the proverbial nail on the head! The fire department cannot be fire, rescue, EMA, and run an ambulance service in such a large county. If they keep down this path they are going to have an epic fail when a major event happens. Good Lord, Fred Russell. What is it with you anyway? I saw you on the news making snarky comments to a flood victim this week. It made me so sad for him. Where is the professionalism?

The fire department provides first responder service and that's the extent of what they should be doing. I feel so sorry for the people who live in Richmond County. Thank God I do not.

tgentry
231
Points
tgentry 11/01/12 - 07:46 pm
4
0
EMS Primary Provider

This is to Sweet son and TCB22

I attended the meeting. You are both wrong in so many ways.

Sweet Son Writes

"They have no business trying to venture out of their area of expertise. If you send an ambulance to my residence that says Augusta Fire Department on the side and I can speak I will tell them to go away. Call Gold Cross for me!!! Firefighters should backup 911 calls for ambulances but should not be first responders where critical care is needed." he also states "If and only if the Fire Department employs people who are Paramedic certified should they be allowed to operate ambulances in Richmond County."

If you want to refuse the Fire Department and wait for Gold Cross then let me know how that works for you. I believe since 2006 or earlier, all Augusta/ Richmond fire fighters have to be EMS certified. Guess who most of the EMS techs are that work for Gold Cross? That answer is mostly Augusta/Richmond Fire Fighters.

TCB22 writes

"The fire department cannot be fire, rescue, EMA, and run an ambulance service in such a large county. If they keep down this path they are going to have an epic fail when a major event happens."

What would happen today if a major event happens? Gold Cross would have to listen to the Augusta/Richmond County Fire Department on where to setup and how to operate. Do you want Gold Cross to be able to make there own decisions with out having to go through the Emergency team of Richmond County?

This is not about the city / county providing ambulance's to the city/county. The city/county just wants the providers to be accountable. I for one want them to be accountable as well. How would you like it if you had a heart attack and you lived 2 doors down from rescue 1. Obviously rescue 1 would be able to get to you in less than a minute. Well Gold Cross is the primary provider. Rescue 1 can not respond with out the permission of Gold Cross. Gold Cross has a ambulance heading to your location but it is 15 minutes away.

This is nothing more but a way for Gold Cross not wanting to be accountable. I find it very funny that all these years Gold Cross had no problems with the contract. The problems has arose when Chief James asked Gold Cross to provide facts on their calls. Gold Cross called off a First Responder unit saying they where on scene. First Responder continued anyway and Gold Cross was not on scene. Then Chief James held them accountable and now they are trying to take over. This stinks to high heaven.

tgentry
231
Points
tgentry 11/01/12 - 07:52 pm
6
0
Ambulance Prices

This just came to me as well. Why should a ambulance ride cost more then the Hospital Visit? 750.00 for EMS to take me to the hospital? Wow I can understand if I'm having a heart attack or some life threatening trauma. People who call a ambulance for transport on non life threatening events are simply crazy.

TCB22
652
Points
TCB22 11/01/12 - 08:12 pm
2
0
Mr. Gentry we will just have

Mr. Gentry we will just have to agree to disagree. I could debate the facts with you until the cows come home but instead I will just day that I do not have any personal gain with either side of this issue and I'm sticking to my guns.

It won't matter what I or anyone else says anyway. ARC will keep going down roads that never have the best interest of their citizens on the forefront. So sad.

dichotomy
34450
Points
dichotomy 11/02/12 - 12:03 am
3
0
Can the City of Augusta do

Can the City of Augusta do ANYTHING that does not become a goat rope?

"The fire department cannot be fire, rescue, EMA, and run an ambulance service in such a large county."

I lived in a large city where they did exactly that and they had the BEST medical emergency response and transport that I have ever seen. Mabye that would not be the case here considering the incompetence at every level of our local government but it can and has been done in other places. And, oh yeh, property taxes are LOWER there.

Personally, I am a little leary of contractor provided ambulance service on the quality, accountability and the price issues.

"750.00 for EMS to take me to the hospital?"

And yes, that is simply obscene....bordering on criminal. Anything over $350 is robbery.

soapy_725
43757
Points
soapy_725 11/02/12 - 06:35 am
0
1
More indecision, lack of kowledge,
Unpublished

Who in their right mind would want ARC to run anything? The AC is 50% government incompetence and 50% ads.

soapy_725
43757
Points
soapy_725 11/02/12 - 06:38 am
0
1
And ARC, lets hire some more people to read for
Unpublished

the obvious illiterates on the commission. And make recommendations on their votes or no votes. Sounds like Washington DC. Lobbyist write the bills for their their bosses. Then they make notes for the Lee Anderson's of the world to pass the bills.

betcha2
42
Points
betcha2 11/02/12 - 10:57 am
0
0
AGAIN THE PROBLEM IS MONOPOLY

Firefighters ARE trained EMS and Paramedics...who also work for various ambulance services. Sweet Son claims he'd send the Rescue 1 back because its the fire department responding first...but when it's your life, your spouse's life, or your child, would you REALLY refuse the help? You really don't get it, do you? I'm glad I'm not your family member!
This zoning issue IS about monopoly after Gold Cross was being made accountable, now he'll just operate without a contract by attempting to get zoned for Augusta--- giving him the monopoly and no one will have any voice in the matter. No oversite, no competition = monopoly which in turns means no control over pricing or service.... We get what we get and no recourse.

Sweet son
10739
Points
Sweet son 11/03/12 - 07:03 pm
0
0
Sorry I didn't get back sooner but;

I offended tgentry with my comment about turning the AFD ambulance away. It really would seem that if we want the fire department to be our ambulance service with Paramedics and not first responders that we should just go ahead and give them the whole deal. But! I think it would require a budget outlay for full coverage that the county/taxpayers can't afford. I don't ever mean to rile anyone up and my statements are just my opinions. With only 1 1/2 ambulances manned it doesn't seem possible that Chief James could manage the emergencies. As I said it just seems to be more of a power struggle than just doing what is best for the citizens of Richmond County.. I have the greatest appreciation for the fire department and the folks at Gold Cross. Both groups provide invaluable services to the citizens of Richmond County. Keep up the good work and we will wait to see how the powers that be fumble through this!

Son

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