Council discusses EMS

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Almost since the beginning of Faith EMS ambulance service beginning operation in Andalusia, the City of Andalusia, and specifically an EMS Committee which reports to the city, has been attempting to formulate a plan for how to distribute calls between Faith and the Andalusia Rescue Squad.

Currently the two agencies are on a rotation system with Covington County E-911.

Tuesday, during the workshop session of the Andalusia City Council, Councilman Mike Jones, a member of the EMS Committee, made a report to the council regarding a bid process which will ultimately determine the rescue service that will be allowed to handle rescue calls. Members of the Faith EMS squad were in attendance at the session.

The calls in question will involve Andalusia Fire and Police Departments.

Jones said he requested that E-911 Director Susan Carpenter pull her calls for a one-year period of time in order to gain a more accurate sense of the calls handled in the city.

He said the data showed that over a period of a year, there were 821 calls, with 702 of those being medical calls, 62 involving wrecks and 57 involving fires.

Jones said the 119 total calls for wrecks and fires translates into approximately 15 percent of the calls in the city.

He noted that of the wreck calls, 46 of the 62 involved transport, with police and fire department officials responding, and with fire calls, only 4 of the 57 involved transport. These totals for both categories only equated, Jones said, to about 6 percent of the total calls.

"That 6 percent is about what we have been guessing (as far as the percentage of calls which would be subject to the city's bid process)," said Jones. "Based on 911, that is what we're talking about. One of the things we were having trouble defining were rescue services, but what we have seen with these numbers, (those calls involving response by fire and police departments) may be (a more accurate) method of (categorizing the calls)."

He said when he began searching for a city who had implemented a similar bid process, he discovered that the City of Ozark had a similar plan.

"We got a copy of (the City of Ozark's bid plan) and (the rough draft of Andalusia's plan) is pretty much a re-draft of Ozark's document," said Jones.

"(Andalusia's draft) is pretty much verbatim with Ozark's," added City Attorney Tom Albritton.

Albritton said he had earlier proposed a series of six-month contracts automatically renewable for a period not to exceed three years because of the nature of the service that is given.

"If you wanted to have the ability to cut off that contract after six months you could do that," said Albritton. "You wouldn't have to do that, and you can contract for three years if you want to, but one option would be to break it up into smaller bits. I would want a paragraph in (the bid document) which specifically says that the parties acknowledge that the contract retains control over the manner the contractor accomplishes a job and that we don't have the authority to come in and tell them how to do their jobs. If they get sued, I don't want somebody to come back and say (the service under contract) they were our agent or anything other than the fact of them entering into a contract with the city."

Jones emphasized that the city's current draft is still a very rough one at this stage, and basically a draft was composed in order to get more input from the council.

Albritton later suggested that Jones perhaps might gather at least another year's worth of call data, although he said he didn't feel the percentage would change much from the 6 percent, but Jones said he would not mind collecting more data, and Jones said he appreciated Carpenter's efforts in collecting the first data.

When a member of Faith EMS asked why the bid process is necessary when the current rotation process seems to be working well, Jones said crucial services need to be regulated efficiently.

"We want to make sure we protect the citizens as far as rescue services, but as far as transport and private transfer and all those things, I think competition will bear that out and you guys will all be working together," said Jones. "As far as things that deal with fire departments and the police department,

I think they deserve a higher (consideration)."

"What I think the committee is trying to do is to get whoever wants to bid on (the rescue calls) to say we will provide this level of service for this amount of money and whoever can provide the highest level of service is going to get the contract," said Mayor Earl Johnson.

Jones also noted that other emergency services may also want to contract with the city, so the city needs to try and account for the current two-agency situation as well as possibly others offering their service in the future.

City Clerk Pam Steele commented that under the city's proposal, a bidding entity would have three weeks to prepare a bid for the rescue calls.

Faith EMS Owner Doug Tisdale asked if copies of the draft might be available, to which Albritton replied that when his agency receives bid specifications, those specifications would give a clear indication about the contract itself.