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Court denies EMS request

The City of Andalusia is one step closer to resolving issues relating to rescue services within city limits.

Covington County Circuit Judge M. Ashley McKathan denied a request for a preliminary injunction filed by Faith EMS against the municipality Monday.

The legal dispute and process is nothing new, however.

"Doug Tisdale (Faith EMS President) came to us and asked if they could open a rescue squad business," Mayor Earl Johnson said. "There was never any issue about that, because it was a business."

City Attorney Tom Albritton said the city was for the business, because more business attracts people.

A committee, headed by Councilman Mike Jones, studied different cities about ambulance services for several months. They adopted a license fee, in which rescue workers had to be certified and pay a small fee to the city.

Major problems arose from there being two ambulance services in the city, added Johnson.

"The question of who would answer emergency calls became an issue," he said. "Emergency calls are defined by us as a call in which either our fire department or our police department is called to respond to whether it be a wreck or a fire. Because there had been issues in other cities with competing ambulance services where both would show up at the scene and squabble over who would rescue the victim, we didn't want that to happen in Andalusia. That's ridiculous, because if you have someone waiting on immediate medical attention, that person doesn't need anyone fighting over who would rescue.

"Another issue was we wanted to make sure a certain level of medical care was provided to people in need, including our employees," he continued. "For example, if a policeman was at the scene of an accident, it is not far-fetched to believe he could be injured at that scene. Initially, Faith told us they didn't want to be in ambulance service. They just wanted to transport people to hospital upon request in non-emergency situations. We have no intention of trying to disrupt that kind of service. If someone wanted to choose Faith, we shouldn't have the right to say 'no.'"

A study conducted by Enhanced-911 (E-911) showed only 5 percent of the calls dispatched were emergency calls, Johnson said. If the percentage were divided among two ambulance services responding to calls,

2.5 percent or less would be split among them, he pointed out.

"The amount of money involved in emergency services is minimal at best," he said. "Faith said they didn't want to be in emergency calls, at first, because there isn't enough money involved. That's true."

Emergency-call responders, also, should be above the bare minimal of state requirements, added Johnson.

"The state doesn't require emergency responders to carry the 'jaws of life' (medical equipment)," he said. "We wanted whoever responds to calls to have the proper equipment, so they wouldn't have to track down another service."

Johnson also said bids were opened for a contract with the city for emergency responders, and Faith did not bid.

"What the city agreed to do was to withhold the awarded contract, pending the hearing we have before the court," Albritton said. "The City has a very limited amount of time to respond to a bid, with a reaction time of 30 days."

The contract, Johnson said, was postponed.

"In effect, you have whoever is not awarded this contract (to provide emergency services) would be able to openly participate on over 95 percent of calls coming through E-911 and 100 percent of every other business out there," Albritton added. "It's also important to realize the committee (headed by Mike Jones) was not formed as a reaction to Faith EMS. It was formed, because Faith brought up other issues that up until this time had not even had to be considered by the City. The committee's goal was to figure out how to handle multiple providers of critical services to community."

- Editor's Note: For more details of Tuesday night's Andalusia City Council meeting, please see Thursday's edition of the Star-News.