County Commission hears ambulance services proposal

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On Thursday morning a special meeting discussing the future of ambulance services of the incorporated part of Shelby County was held.

There’s a proposal before the County Commission for county ambulance services to be run by the Shelby County Fire Department. The current, contracted out company, AMR, is planning to nearly double their rates.

The commission needs to come up with some service plan by January 1.

“As long as they keep the response times the same and it doesn’t cost the taxpayers too much money,” said Jasmine Shannon.

Shannon lives in Millington. When it comes to changes in ambulance services those are her top priorities.

“This is a big undertaking for Shelby County government, but I think if we do our due diligence we can do a very good job,” explained Shelby County Commissioner Mark Billingsley.

An undertaking Shelby County Fire Chief Alvin Benson and Public Works Director Tom Needham laid out Thursday. It would include 10 ambulances staffed with 30 paramedics and 30 EMTS across the county, including Arlington, Lakeland and Millington. Firefighters and paramedics would be cross-trained.

“Being a fire based EMS system we talked about how not only is that paramedic, not just a paramedic only but the paramedic can now serve as a firefighter and help in a multiple number of ways,” explained Fire Chief Benson.

He said response times would not be impacted and could be better.

However, the new system comes with a price tag of about $3.9 million after revenue offset. Revenue will be collected from participating municipalities, billings and collections, and fire fees would increase 12 percent.

“To some extent the fire fee represents the insurance the community has to have access to the resources we provide so when you actually use your resources you know like your insurance policy, there would be some additional cost,” said Benson.

For the most part, the commission was on board with the plan, but still had questions about things like how Medicare would be handled.

“I mean our backs are against the wall but this is why I’m being a little insistent on it. It’s not that and I know you’re getting a little impatient. It’s not that I don’t believe we can do this but there’s no way for us to hold it accountable unless we set it out right on the front end,” said Commissioner Heidi Shafer.

The commission will meet again on Monday where they could vote on whether or not to those ambulance services in house.