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Ambulance service to get more oversight in new agreement

Ambulances from National EMS participate in a mass casualty exercise at Athens-Ben Epps Airport
National EMS/Facebook
Ambulances from National EMS participate in a mass casualty exercise at Athens-Ben Epps Airport

Ambulance service in Athens-Clarke County will come under more regular scrutiny under a plan approved Friday by commissioners.

Previously overseen by a board that hadn’t met since before the COVID-19 pandemic, National EMS – the private company that handles ambulance service in the county – will now submit quarterly reports directly to the Mayor and Commission, as will ACC Fire and Emergency Services and the county’s 911 center. Those groups are also required to meet with local lawmakers twice a year, an opportunity to answer direct questions about their performance.

Commissioner Carol Myers, spearheaded the effort to update the agreement, said she hoped the new memorandum of understanding was, "the beginning of some fruitful, transparent conversations," about EMS service.

In addition to regular updates, the type of information National EMS and ACC service providers have to present is more detailed. That includes the daily number of ambulances available, not just averages, and what type of EMTs they are staffed with.

Under the terms of the new agreement, commissioners will know how many of National's ambulances are staffed with paramedics, the highest level of EMT certification, and how many are staffed with Advanced EMTs. The memorandum calls for all Advanced Life Support ambulances to have one paramedic and one Advanced EMT on board. Basic Life Support ambulances should have at least two AEMTs.

In addition, commissioners will also be able to see each quarter how quickly calls are being responded to. The benchmark under is nine minutes 90% of the time.

National EMS has a contract with Piedmont in Athens-Clarke County and with St. Mary’s Healthcare in Oconee County, although the company serves both hospitals in both counties. The hospitals pay the bulk of the contract with National, but ACC and Oconee Counties each contribute $100,000 per year.

The new agreement drew support from both National EMS and from advocates for more robust EMS service in the county. Commissioners passed the revised agreement unanimously.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.