Redmond Regional Medical Center will continue to provide ambulance services in Chattooga County for the next 10 years, according to a contract signed last month.
This is the first contract extension since the county abolished its own service in 2011.
“I cannot say enough good about the services they have provided to us,” Commissioner Jason Winters said.
The decision to go with a private company saved the county lots of money. The county reduced its payroll as EMTs, drivers and paramedics were hired on with Redmond.
The move ultimately put more ambulances into the county and lowered response times to emergency calls, Winters said.
“Consistently, ambulance calls are being answered within that eight-10 minute range. That is something that would have taken tremendous resources for the county to ever achieve,” Winters said praising Redmond’s efforts.
The contract with Redmond is essentially the same one signed nine years ago. It’s for 10 years but there are “opt out,” clauses.
“The commissioner cannot obligate past his term of office,” Winters said. “Of course, Redmond wants to plan. Their plan is they want to operate here for the future. . . They want to make sure that they know we are committed on that.”
Redmond will continue using the large ambulance building on Stockade Road free of charge.
“They’ve been very gracious to us,” Winters said.
Redmond is providing services free of charge.
“There is no cost that the county has to pay to Redmond which is almost unheard of in the State of Georgia. Most counties are making some kind of contribution to help offset ambulance cost and we continue at a zero-base fee. Like I said, they just have been a wonderful partner for us, and I was happy to renew that contract,” Commissioner Winters said.
The switch from a county-owned to a private-owned ambulance service wasn’t a popular idea nine years ago.
The county was having to decide whether to keep its ambulances or raise taxes. The commissioner weathered the political controversary and naysayers.
His move eliminated $450,000 a year from the budget and created more job opportunities for locals as Redmond hired on additional staff.
The ambulance service started Jan. 15, 1978 under the leadership of former sole county commissioner Pete Denson.
Prior to the county’s entry into the EMS business, Lane’s Funeral Home and Erwin-Petitt Funeral Home provided ambulance services. But in the summer of 1977, the funeral homes announced they wanted out of the business.
So, in 1977, Commissioner Denson raised the county’s property millage rate 1-mill. According to an Oct. 1977 newspaper, Denson said he expected the ambulance service would cost between $100,000 to $150,000 a year to operate.
The ambulance service was originally housed out of the county’s hospital, the current site of Oakview Nursing Home.
The first ambulance was purchased from Southern Ambulance Builders Inc., of LaGrange. The purchase price was about $39,000 with “the lion’s share of the cost” being picked up by the state, Denson noted back then.
The ambulance service was staffed with six emergency medical technicians (EMTs), along with a director.
The staff continued to grow over the years. By the time Redmond took over, the county’s EMS service had 31 full-time and/or part-time employees.