County leaders consider pros and cons of ambulance service switc - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

County leaders consider pros and cons of ambulance service switch

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)

Shelby County discussed some possible changes to its ambulance system at a public works committee meeting on Thursday.

Plans were laid out for a future ambulance system run by the Shelby County Fire Department. The committee will soon decide whether to use that system or keep the current system, American Medical Response.

“We have two choices: we can go with the private ambulance service with AMR, or we can take the service in-house,” commissioner Mark Billingsley said.

Fire chief Alvin Benson presented the proposal to take on the responsibility of the ambulance system.

“Cross-train fire paramedics who cannot only deliver the medical piece, but they can also have a medical role as a firefighter,” Benson said.

The debate comes after American Medical Response requested a few changes to their contract that could more than double costs for the county. That's why the county is considering using fire department employees to man the ambulances as well.

“AMR’s challenges are strictly cost; AMR has been pretty transparent,” Benson said.

Shelby County Fire Department proposed a plan with a total of almost $600,000 less than AMR, but they said there will be a 12 percent fire fee increase.

Commissioners said they the proposal is looking like the winning option, but the decision is about more than cost—it’s about the safety of Shelby County citizens.

“Looks like we're going to take it in house,” Billingsley said. “We've got to do two things: we've got to be fiscally responsible to the citizens of Shelby County, and those people that need ambulance services, as well as provide a superb service.”

The final decision will come Monday.

The switch could come as soon as January 2017, however, it would mean a $3 tax increase per month for county residents.

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