Germantown Finds Success In Running Its Own Ambulance Service

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(Germantown, TN) Germantown ambulances are put to the test on another emergency call.

Now they are the ones being held accountable for how long it takes an ambulance to get there.

"It's been going quite well," says Germantown Fire Chief John Selberg.

He says three months in and everything is on track.

Germantown cut ties with Shelby County's contracted ambulance service, then hired nine additional workers and rented four ambulances, and put them on the streets.

"We have continuance of care. Paramedics that are first there take them all the way to the hospital, make sure they are OK, talk to them about what they found first on the scene and are able to be that advocate for the patient," says Selberg.

The bigger question is if the switch affected ambulance response.

Chief Selberg crunched the numbers.

He said response time averaged four-and-a-half to five minutes when the city contracted out to Shelby County and Rural Metro Ambulance.

Now the response time is 3 minutes and 20 seconds.

"Our goal when we started this was to be under seven minutes 90 percent of the time. We've done that 99 percent of the time," says Selberg.

Germantown is paying about three times more to run its own ambulance service at a cost of over a million dollars a year.

Many people who live in Germantown say it's worth it.

"I think it will be beneficial for us in the city saving money and being able to service our citizens in better ways, more effective ways," says Selberg.

"I think they have been quick before, but here in Germantown where they are already, I think they should be even faster," says Jennifer Arndt of Germantown.

Germantown was recently put to the test when ambulances were stretched thin at the Germantown Festival in September.

In record-setting heat, emergency calls started coming, all four  ambulances were responding and more were needed so they had to call other ambulance companies for help.

"It was the heat, a lot of people coming in with seizures, sick and injured, a lot related to heat," says Selberg. "It was a new event for our dispatchers so we sent a lot of ambulances for everything."

Selberg says lessons were learned and they now realize not every heat call needs an ambulance.

Germantown is now looking at how it responds to calls.

"There are gonna be those times we get a heavy call load at the same time. It's the business we are in, having a back up plan was necessary and we had one for that," says Selberg.

"Germantown is already preparing for the next phase. All of its rented ambulances will be replaced December 1st  by  ambulances Germantown owns itself."

The cost you pay for an ambulance helps Germantown pay for running its own service.
Germantown charges  $650 to $850 for an ambulance call.

The Fire Chief says that's cheaper than the $950 to $1000 the contractor used to charge.

The Chief says Germantown is still forming partnerships with other ambulance services, ready to call for help of its own when needed.

"I don't want to have one of those situations where someone doesn't get the care they need," says Selberg.

Germantown decided to run its own ambulances  after Shelby County changed contracts with ambulance providers. Germantown feared it  would have less service.

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