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April 10, 2013JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The Johns Creek City Council and its ambulance service provider, Rural Metro Ambulance, are trying to hammer out a deal that would improve the response times of Rural Metro, but some aspects may not pass muster with state law.
Rural Metro has agreed to dedicate the ambulance stationed at Fire Station No. 61 to Johns Creek. Previously, it had been dispatched by Rural Metro to any location.
In a separate negotiation, Rural Metro may lease three of the city's emergency response vehicles to transport patients who have been stabilized under the Metro license. This is where it gets sticky.
Metro receives its license from the District III Emergency Services Council. Under state law, only Metro as the state-designated ambulance service provider for North Fulton may transport patients. The city vehicles cannot. Clear?
So that is why the city and Metro are talking about leasing city Quick Response Vehicles to Metro. Metro would then pay the city for their use and charge transported patients their fee. That means Johns Creek taxpayers would pay to use tax-supported vehicles.
This all came about because the city wants Rural Metro to hit its contract benchmarks of responding to an emergency call within 8 minutes 90 percent of the time. Although Rural Metro responses have improved, they still miss that benchmark.
The city pays a $131,000 subsidy to "buy down" its contract to meet the 8-minute contract, but still Metro finds it difficult to meet those standards.
"The real problem here is we [the city] can't fire Rural Metro. Only the state can do that," City Manager John Kachmar told the City Council in an April 11 workshop.
Rural Metro is not the first responder in such emergencies, the Johns Creek Fire Department is, and its response times are 4.5 minutes to 6 minutes. But the slower response times are a concern to the city.
At the April 11 City Council meeting that immediately followed the workshop, both Rural Metro Division General Manager Tony Anteau and the District III Emergency Medical Services Chairman Dr. John Harvey spoke to clarify their positions.
Anteau pointed out that the city has a lot of traffic and not a lot of connectivity. To raise the level of service, it is going to require more equipment and personnel. That is why his company is negotiating with the city for the lease of its vehicles.
Harvey, an Alpharetta trauma surgeon, said his board will investigate any allegations regarding ambulance service if notified by the city.
He noted one of the difficulties facing the district is that of the eight EMS districts, District III fields 47 percent of all 911 calls in the state. Fulton County within that district has three providers – North Metro for North Fulton including Sandy Springs, another provider for Atlanta and a third for South Fulton.
"Largely, [the District III Board] is left to deliberate on violation allegations brought to us by the cities," Harvey said.
The three areas they preside over are the welfare of the residents and the efficiency and economy of the service.
"It does not have to be an issue facing the entire district. If Johns Creek were to ask, we would investigate any problem, but we have not been asked," Harvey said.
That had been a bone of contention among the council members because some thought the county manager had been instructed to write a letter to the EMS Council asking for new bids for ambulance service as part of the two-pronged effort to get better ambulance service, the other being negotiating with Metro.
Kachmar said he had not specifically asked that of the EMS Council because it was not a directive. His letter to the EMS board was more broad. He said the board would not open up new bids on the contract on a complaint by just one city. It would mean changing providers for all six cities in North Fulton.
Councilman Ivan Figueroa backed Kachmar, saying it was his motion and remembered that he specifically did not ask directly for a rebid, but that it would be among the tools the EMS board had at its disposal.
The issue had to be settled by playing the tape of the meeting. The city clerk said Figueroa was right.
But they still have until May 9 when the EMS board meets again to word a stronger letter to the board.
Meanwhile, most of the council members did not want to discuss the negotiations because no contract proposal is before them.
After the meeting, Harvey was asked if the state law would allow the lease of city emergency vehicles to Metro to answer calls. He said that is something the state lawyers would have to ascertain.
So any new agreement will have to get clearance from the EMS board at some point.
Executive Editor, Appen Media.
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