All sides erred in EMS debacle

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2003

We've had a few days to digest the news that the bid process for the City of Andalusia's emergency medical services has been resolved.

No, the city didn't drop the process, but instead, followed it through to completion and simply rejected the lone bid it received. That's all.

What does this mean for the citizens of Andalusia?

Quite simply, it means that for now, rescue services in the city limits will be handled the same way they are handled in the county and have been handled in the city in the interim - on a rotational basis.

Currently, that's the case in Opp where two rescue services operate - Opp Rescue Squad and Opportunity EMS. In Florala, Opp Rescue by contract with the all-volunteer Florala EMS, handles all emergency calls within the city limits of Florala as a back-up to the calls the Florala can't get to. On the US 331 side of the city it's the same thing. On the Alabama 55 side, outside of the city limits, a rotational system between Faith EMS and Andalusia Rescue is in place.

Of course, citizens can still request one service or the other if they so choose.

What's most interesting about the whole situation is the fact that no one in the county raised a lot of ruckus about the contracting between two rescue services. Instead, Florala EMS thought about the good of the patient and sought out assistance with another service on an "as needed" basis.

That's foresight on their part.

In Gantt, there's still the all-volunteer Gantt Rescue which continues to do a great job. In fact, all rescue services in Covington County are doing a good job.

But that's not the point.

The point is, when the City of Andalusia decided to do something that could help maintain the current level of service in the city limits - lawsuits were filed, people chose sides and a town became divided.

What the city did was not illegal - despite what some may say. In fact, what they did, and could still do, is perfectly legal. Numerous municipalities in Alabama contract emergency services with one rescue service - despite having two, three or more located within their jurisdiction. It simply makes "safe sense."

There were problems from the beginning on the situation in Andalusia. There are three sides to every story - like a divorce. There's his side, her side, and then somewhere in the middle, there's the truth.

Accusations of trying to close one or the other of the two rescue services in Andalusia were completely unfounded, based on no tangible evidence.

No one can deny the issue got messy. It got downright ugly. All parties involved - citizens, the city, the two rescue services, the media - all played some part in the eventual outcome of the situation.

Some tried to play the "underdog and emotional angle," fighting the system and preying on peoples beliefs. That was just wrong. Sitting idly by and not saying a word - that might be honorable, but to some, it showed indifference. The city for not acting swifter. The citizens for picking sides and "talking down" about one or the other rescue services. And the media - yes, we are at great fault here too. We erred in letting the battle rage the way it did. We got caught up in selling papers, getting viewers to watch our newscasts and forgetting about keeping all lines of communication open.

This whole process has been a dark blotch on our city's progression into the 21st Century, but as time goes on, the situation will resolve itself. We can only hope the current levels of service do not suffer, or we - as a newspaper - will be forced to pick sides, and one of the services, some of the citizens won't like it.