Opportunity EMS closing after 18 years

Published 1:24 am Saturday, December 31, 2016

Covington County is losing one of its long-time EMS providers.

Opportunity EMS owner Haywood Nawlin and staff said that after 18 years, they were calling it quits.

The ambulance service will no longer provide service after midnight tonight.

Gerald Jansen, who was Nawlin’s first employee, said Friday that he’s retiring and the rest of the crew has jobs at other places.

Jansen said that the lack of 911 calls and not being able to get nursing home calls contributed to the closing.

Problems between the ambulance company and E-911 arose last October, stemming from a motorcycle accident involving Covington County Deputy Larry Smith. Smith ultimately died.

The E-911 board maintained that the ambulance service got a code 3 call and responded with only basic life support.

Mark Ryan, attorney for the E-911 board, said this wasn’t the first time it had happened.

The board suspended the company for 60 days from being on the 911 rotation.

Eventually, Smith’s wife filed suit against the ambulance company.

In November 2015, Opportunity EMS claimed to have called and talked to a dispatcher about needing LifeFlight, but due to static the radio was allegedly turned down.

Opportunity EMS alleged that the actions and inactions of the 911 dispatcher failed the patient and they sought disciplinary action.

The board heard 911 tapes of the conversation, heard from Opp Fire Chief Cory Spurlin, who was at dispatch that day, and also had a hands-free radio that allows him to hear calls from all parties in the Opp service area, which includes Opportunity EMS, and after hearing the testimony and a lengthy discussion in closed session, they decided to dismiss the complaint against the dispatcher.

Late last year, the E-911 board voted to exclusively contract services to PrideMark EMS for Opp and Florala and Advanced EMS for Andalusia, beginning in January 2016.

“It’s just business,” he said. “We hate to close.”

Nawlin plans to continue his wrecker company.