FLORENCE — Lauderdale County commissioners took a step Monday that could lead to one ambulance service providing emergency medical services for the entire county, including Florence.
After discussing specifications for the county’s emergency medical services for more than two hours, county commissioners authorized county 911 Director George Grabryan to talk with town officials in Killen to see if they want to provide their own ambulance services or be included in a countywide bid.
They said once Killen provides an answer, Grabryan will talk with the city of Florence about soliciting a joint bid for ambulance service.
Killen/Center Star Rescue Squad provides emergency medical service to 14,000 residents.
“If we can be united, it benefits everyone,” said Commissioner Roger Garner. “We’re better off if we can keep one service in the county.”
Commission Chairman Dewey Mitchell put the issue in perspective: “The bigger the service area, the better the service provider.”
Commissioners voted 3-1 on Oct. 22 to accept a proposal from Lauderdale EMS, which is owned by Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield. Shoals Ambulance, which is based at Shoals Hospital in Muscle Shoals, was the only other company to submit a bid for the county’s service.
Florence council members voted Oct. 2 to use Shoals Ambulance.
The action resulted in termination of a joint, four-year agreement between the city and county to use the same primary emergency medical provider. That agreement had been in place for the past 14 years.
Both entities now have to accept bids for ambulance service within their own jurisdictions or try to work together on another joint agreement.
“If (Killen) doesn’t want to be included, it doesn’t have to,” Mitchell said. “Once we know what they are going to do, we will go on to Florence and see what they say. They can say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and then we’ll know how to proceed.”
County attorney Chris Smith said determining the service area must be done before the commission seeks bids.
“Once the commission hears from Killen and Florence, you will have the geographic footprint needed to move forward,” Smith told commissioners.
No action will be taken until Grabrayn reports back to the commission with information from Killen and Florence.
If Killen, which has a population of about 1,100, decides to be included in the county’s coverage, it could mean the end to the ambulance service now provided by Killen-Center Star Rescue Squad. The ambulance service is now based at Center Star Fire Department, county officials said.
Commissioner D.C. Thornton, during the work session, said records show Killen-Center Star transferred 71 patients to Lauderdale EMS ambulances during a recent 12-montb period because personnel on the Killen-Center Star ambulance weren’t qualified to handle the emergency.
“Having to stop and transfer patients is time consuming, time that keeps the patient from getting to a medical facility,” Thornton said.
He said he saw a Killen-Center Star ambulance earlier this year parked in front of Captain D’s on Florence Boulevard transferring a patient to a Lauderdale EMS ambulance.
“Including (Killen-Center Star) in a countywide contract will provide better service for the county as a whole and better service for people in that area,” Thornton said.
Lauderdale EMS has agreed to continue to provide ambulance service to Florence and Lauderdale County until new contracts are approved.