Originally created 06/20/02

Augusta EMT shoots down chopper plan as too expensive



Regarding the bid process for ambulance service in Augusta/Richmond County: Commissioner Andy Cheek said he's in favor of Gold Cross because, "they have a helicopter, and that would be good for my constituents."

Does Mr. Cheek know the helicopter does not come free? I will agree for areas out by McBean and Blythe that the helicopter would be beneficial in a few cases. However, for most cases, it would be overkill to use that equipment.

People whine about the cost of a regular ambulance transport. Are they willing to pay the $3,000 minimum fee for use of the helicopter? This might be acceptable if the thing was used only when necessary, but there have been several incidents when it was used and wasn't really needed ...

In many cases, by the time the helicopter is requested, the crew brought in, the chopper warmed up, etc., the patient could have already been transported to the hospital by a land ambulance - and at much cheaper cost.

Our commissioners need to stop playing political games with patients' lives. Yes, it's expensive to run an ambulance service. The ambulance, staff, equipment, fuel and maintenance are not free.

In response to Commissioner Marion Williams, we EMTs deserve to be paid for what we do. We do not expect to get rich (if we did, there are a lot better ways to do it - like becoming a politician), but we do expect to be able to feed our families.

OK, then let the fire department take over and run the ambulance service. This is a good idea that works in other communities.

However, again, the main sticking point is money. It has been estimated that to have the fire department set up and run an ambulance service as good as what we have today, it would cost at least $5 million to $9 million on top of the fire department's existing budget.

Commissioners refuse to accept that such a huge budget hike would mean a tax increase that the populace certainly does not want. People must realize they can't get something for nothing. Good services are not cheap ...

Tim Walker, North Augusta, S.C.