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Genese County ambulance issues continue

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fnnm1062

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Ambulance owners ask Grand Blanc City Council to spurn county's proposal
by Julia Zaher | The Grand Blanc News
Thursday March 13, 2008, 3:57 PM

GRAND BLANC, Michigan -- Swartz Ambulance Service filed a lawsuit in Genesee County Circuit Court on Tuesday against the Genesee County Board of Commissioners, the county's Health Department, Medical Control Authority and 911 Consortium in an effort to halt the implementation of an ordinance that would limit the number of Emergency Medical Service providers, possibly to as few as two.

The commissioners unanimously passed the ordinance in December after three years of debate over changing the way ambulances respond to calls. The plan is supposed to improve communication between dispatch centers and paramedics and reduce ambulance response times.

"The ordinance is likely to put all the ambulance companies in Genesee County out of business," said Jim Grady, director of operations for Patriot Ambulance Service.

Most of the area's 10 ambulance companies would be shut out of bidding on the county contract because few are large enough to handle half the county as required, he said.

Grady and Shirley Burchett, owners of the Flint Township-based ambulance company, joined Harry Swartz, owner of Swartz Ambulance Service in Mundy Township, in an appeal to the Grand Blanc City Council on Wednesday night. They asked the council to review the lengthy ordinance and consider opting out of the county's plan.

Other jurisdictions have heard similar pleas from the ambulance company owners in recent weeks. They warn that one or two ambulance companies would receive the contracts for the county, which would be split into two zones, north and south, for service.

Swartz said his company would bid on the contract for the southern zone. Nevertheless, he opposes the new ordinance, saying it would create a monopoly and possibly a costly nightmare for county residents.

Swartz Ambulance Service provides standby ambulances at no cost for numerous community events, including Grand Blanc High School football games, the Crim Festival of Races, parades and carnivals, Swartz said. The service also doesn't charge for calls to assistance, such as when an elderly person falls out of bed and needs help.

"I probably do 10 assists a day and never ask a dime for it. That's going to go away," Swartz said.

Swartz said it would cost about $1,000 per football game to have an ambulance on site if the schools have to pay for the service.

He also warned that his 75 employees and those of other ambulance companies could lose their jobs.

"All the problems in the system should have been fixed three years ago," Swartz said.

For years, the ambulance services have asked the county for 800 megahertz radios that would provide direct communication with the county's 911 dispatch center and for the ability to post ambulances in various locations instead of the current requirement to remain at a base station. Swartz said the commissioners have denied the requests although such changes will be made for the companies that win the county contract.

The county's Health Department and Medical Control Authority oversee ambulance service and hope to fully implement the commissioners' plan by the first of next year. The Health Department would hire a so-called "ambulance czar."

City Council members expressed concern about the proposed changes and referred the matter to its Public Safety Committee for review.

County Commissioner Jamie Curtis, D-Burton, told The Flint Journal this month the ordinance establishes one 911 center. Only county-contracted EMS providers would be dispatched from the center, which means township or city ambulances would never receive emergency calls. That could make it difficult, if not impossible, for local municipalities to opt out of the new system.
 

fnnm1062

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Listeining to Genesee COunty right now Flint has a PI w/ entrapment w/ at least 3 ambos on scene and add'l medics from Genesee County Sheriff Dept, a medical comes in elsewhere in the city and now they are trying to find a rig and a medic available for the call in the county. Finally have a BLS rig en route but no medics on the way at this time
 
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