Supervisors vote down ambulance proposal

Published 12:08 am Tuesday, July 19, 2016

NATCHEZ — After a split vote at their Monday meeting, it appears Adams County supervisors are not yet ready to commit to a single provider for emergency ambulance services in the county.

Supervisor David Carter made a motion to seek a single provider, but it was voted down by Supervisors Ricky Gray, Calvin Butler and Angela Hutchins. Carter and Supervisors President Mike Lazarus voted for the motion.

Carter’s motion was only for 911 emergency services, not non-emergency ambulance services.

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The county board has in recent months discussed adopting an ordinance to regulate ambulance service in the county, with Adams County being one of the only, if not the only, Mississippi county that does not have an exclusive Emergency 911 response ambulance service.

The discussions started last fall after supervisors heard several complaints about ambulance response times.

Metro Miss-Lou Ambulance Services, American Medical Response and Rural Rapid Response — all of which have a presence in the county, though Rural Rapid Response does not respond to 911 calls — have responded to the board’s request for proposals to show why they would be the best provider for 911 service.

One of Carter’s main complaints with the current system of multiple providers is that instead of dispatching an ambulance that is closest to a patient, the next ambulance in the rotation is dispatched, even if it is farther away. That system is risking people’s lives, Carter said.

Before the vote, Lazarus asked for input from the ambulance services’ representatives at the meeting.

Tyler Blalock with Rural Rapid Response said the current system does need improvement.

“It’s my family here, too, that we are addressing,” he said.

Blalock said multiple ways to improve the system exist, with the easiest option likely being going to a single provider system.

“I don’t know if that’s the best answer, but that is an answer,” he said.

Blalock said a unified dispatch system, which the county is currently working to implement, is a key to improving the system.

Jim Graves with Metro agreed and said he thinks the best option now is to implement the dispatch system and revisit the ambulance provider question sometime after that.

“I think that would be the smart way to go,” he said.

Tim Houghton with AMR said the company supports a sole provider for Adams County, with one company committing to response times, and the county able to hold the company accountable.

Carter pointed out that a sole provider was also the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s recommendation for the county.

The consensus among the supervisors who voted against the motion was that the dispatch system needed to be implemented before that decision was made.

Carter said he respected the supervisors’ opinion, but said the consolidated dispatch system would not solve long response times.

Board Attorney Scott Slover said once the consolidated system is in place, the county will have access to more reliable data on response times and pinpointing problems within the system will be easier.

Lazarus said after the meeting the county would certainly revisit the ambulance provider situation at a later date.

“We are going to revisit this, I’m sure, because there are too many experts that say a sole provider is the way to go,” he said. “We will let the 911 dispatch thing settle out, and then we will revisit it.”

In other news from the meeting:

4Carter wanted to assure county residents that only the 154 customers who have been so far contacted in the Kingston area will be losing their natural gas service when American Midstream Partners caps its natural gas line at Cloverdale later this year.

Carter said he had received calls from other county residents who had feared they would lose nature gas service as well.

The county is still working on a plan, Carter said, to assist those residents losing service.