Status of Decatur County EMS privatization unclear

Published 2:55 pm Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Should we stay or should we go? That much-discussed option relative to the operation of the Decatur County Emergency Medical Services continued Tuesday night at the Decatur County Board of Commissioner’s meeting.
For months, the commissioners have been discussing, without coming to a firm conclusion, the possibility of privatizing the ambulance and emergency response services in the county. However, it appears that the discussion is nearing an end and a decision is imminent.
Despite voting unanimously several months ago to distribute a Request for Proposals (RFPs) to any interested private companies to take over the county’s ambulance service, the RFP was never sent.
Commissioner Dr. David “Butch” Mosely made an additional motion Tuesday night that passed unanimously, to instruct county administrator Gary Breedlove to request proposals for the privatization of the ambulance service and have those proposals to present to the commission by October 31.
The motion and vote came after a long discussion relative to a recent change made reducing the length of one shift in the EMS Department and the consequences to employee compensation in that department.
During the August 27 meeting, Breedlove sought, and was given, permission to reduce one of the shifts to 16 hours per day from 24 hours per day. Such a move would save an estimated $60,000 annually, according to Breedlove.
At the September 10 meeting, Monty Bullock, a paramedic with Decatur EMS, addressed the commission and said that such a change would reduce his salary by $6,000 annually. At that meeting, he urged the commission to privatize the county’s ambulance service as soon as possible.
Bullock addressed the commission again last night and, again, voiced his opinion that privatization was the best option for the county. Bullock said that Mid Georgia Ambulance, a possible option for private operations, could, in his opinion offer a better service to residents than the county could offer.
Commissioner Oliver Sellers made a motion to revert back to the original three 24-hour per day shifts at the EMS department. Sellers said that the EMS employees had been singled out and treated unfairly.
“I would for the administrator, tomorrow morning, to put the ambulance service back on the original schedule until a well planned, well coordinated change can be made,” said Sellers. “I would like to put them back to the original schedule until this can be worked out.”
Bullock indicated that the change to reduce the shift has negatively affected every county paramedic and that, since the change, two county paramedics have left the county with others seeking employment elsewhere.
“I can understand, and can live with, my taxes going up, but when the same folks raise my taxes and then cut my salary, that is tough to take,” said Bullock.
Sellers’ motion to revert back to the original schedule passed unanimously.
The Decatur County Commission’s  next regularly scheduled meeting will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 9 p.m. in the Decatur County Administrative offices.

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