Archived Story

First Response gives 30-day notice

Published 12:12pm Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hartselle Fire Chief Steve Shelton said they may have up to 30 days to find an emergency ambulance service for Hartselle.

First Response EMS of Decatur, which took over calls for Crossroads EMS after it shut down operations last week, informed Shelton that they could only guarantee 30 days of service.

Currently, First Response EMS had one ambulance stationed in both Hartselle and Falkville with another roaming between the two municipalities.

Shelton said it is due to the small volume of calls that they have received in the first four days of service.

“They just don’t think the volume of calls are there to have one ambulance in Hartselle at all times,” Shelton said during a work session. “It could be that we’ve been slow during that period. We’re working with Morgan County 911 to get them numbers for the rest of the year, but they just didn’t feel like they could commit to more than 30 days.”

The Hartselle City Council gave Shelton the permission to send out requests for proposals to find a new ambulance provider. Shelton said he was also reviewing the city’s ordinance to offer options that may increase the profitability of ambulance services.

“A few years ago, we had several ambulance services in the county,” Shelton said. “Now we are down to two.”

Shelton added that Samaritan EMS, the other county ambulance service, said they would be willing to help, but they do not want to commit to being the full-time ambulance provider in Hartselle.

“They did it for a few months and decided that they didn’t want to do it on a long-term basis,” Shelton said.

Councilman Mike Roberson asked if the city could do ambulance transport itself. Shelton responded, “I wouldn’t recommend it.”

Hartselle’s lack of a hospital or nursing home has hurt the city’s ability to keep an ambulance service. However, Falkville has two nursing homes.

“Falkville has the call volume while we have the population numbers,” Shelton said.

Because of that, he believes the two municipalities will go in together to find an ambulance service provider.

Crossroads EMS owner Candi Hayes said they decided to close due to non-payments from insurance and government healthcare entities.

“The number that Medicare and Medicaid owes us is in six figures,” Hayes said. “The most we’ve recently received from them is $3,000. It’s tough to operate a small business when you only receive that much.”

Falkville Fire Chief Chris Free said First Response came online June 4 at noon, which was when Crossroads EMS was planning to close.

“There was no lapse in service,” Free said. “They let us know late Tuesday afternoon that they were planning to shut down at midnight. We asked them to give us until noon Wednesday so that we had a chance to find another provider.”

Free said he is concerned that the last two ambulance providers for the town have both gone out of business due to financial reasons. He said the fire department may have to change some of its practices to deal with the possibility of not having a stable ambulance provider.

“It may get to the point where we may be needed to provide additional life-saving skills if we see an increased response time for ambulances,” Free said.

Hayes thanked all of her employees and the community for their support over the last two years Crossroads has been in business.

“I really hate it for our employees,” Hayes said. “That’s been the toughest part of this is that we’re having to let our employees go. It’s a sad day for all of us.”

Hayes said they and other medical services have been severely affected by the non-payment since the government shutdown in October 2013.

“You almost have to have really deep pockets to run an ambulance service or any kind of medical service with the way Obamacare is right now,” Hayes said. “It’s almost impossible to operate a small business when you don’t receive timely payments.”

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