Three prospective ambulance service providers submitted their Request For Proposal documents to the Franklin County Emergency Services Board at a scheduled meeting on June 4 at the Franklin County Annex Building.
The board had previously established at prior meetings that the RFP document would contain guidelines and stipulations for any prospective ambulance service provider interested in being considered for the critical role of providing 911 emergency and nonemergency ambulance needs to the citizens of Franklin County.
The three ambulance service providers that submitted proposals were AMR Ambulance Service, A&E Emergency Services LLC, and First Call Ambulance Service.
Each service had representatives present at the June 4 meeting, and each was briefly questioned by board members regarding emergency medical services matters.
Emergency Services Board Chairman David Alexander, who is also Franklin County mayor, welcomed the three ambulance services and their representatives and officially opened each service’s RFP documents.
First on the list was the Winchester-based A&E Emergency Services LLC, which was represented by Paramedic and Owner Ben Smith.
A&E Emergency Services LLC currently provides nonemergency ambulance services for Franklin County and will occasionally provide emergency transfers from the Southern Tennessee Regional Health System Winchester location when requested or needed.
Smith said that his service would provide four Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulances 24 hours a day and seven days a week and would also provide two Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulances during the day for nonemergency patient transfers.
This would include an ALS ambulance and crew to be stationed in Estill Springs for a total of six ambulances on duty each day.
Alexander then welcomed representatives from the second ambulance service provider, which was American Medical Response.
AMR currently provides 911 emergency ambulance services for Franklin County.
AMR, whose corporate office is located in Colorado, has provided 911 emergency medical services for Franklin County for several years after the corporation acquired the Rural/Metro service.
AMR Regional Director Josh Spencer was joined by AMR Operations Manager Shaun Hale and AMR Operations Supervisor Jimmy Barnett as representatives for the company.
Spencer told the board that AMR would provide a minimum of four 24-hour ALS ambulances with two reserve ambulances for peak overload and to handle non-emergency transports.
This would allow AMR to meet the 15-minute response time requirements “90 percent of the time” in the community.
This included one station in Estill Springs for a total of six ambulances.
Emergency Services Board member and Franklin County Sheriff Tim Fuller then addressed the AMR representatives.
Fuller first voiced the board’s concerns over AMR’s long response times in Franklin County.
Board members had previously brought up incidents in past board meetings where AMR ambulance crews reportedly took more than 25 minutes to arrive on scene when responding to emergency calls in the more remote parts of the county.
Fuller then brought up the board’s concerns over AMR’s current Franklin County personnel not having a working knowledge of how to get around the county.
AMR Operations Manager Shaun Hale told Fuller that AMR had seen a recent increase in personnel, and that included local EMT’s and paramedics with a firsthand knowledge of Franklin County.
Hale also said that the use of technology and a vigorous training program would increase accountability in employees going forward.
Board member Angie Fuller further questioned the AMR representatives about the number of AMR ambulances currently in service in the county and also told the AMR representatives that she had a problem with their long response times to parts of North Franklin County.
AMR Ambulance Service currently staffs two ALS ambulances where each unit has at least one paramedic onboard and one BLS ambulance which is staffed by two advanced EMT’s.
When two of the three ambulances currently provided by AMR are out of the county due to patient transfers from Winchester to hospitals in Murfreesboro or Nashville, this leaves only one ambulance covering the entire county.
According to AMR’s Barnett, this last remaining ambulance then “stages” at the AMR Winchester location to better respond to any call in the county from a more central location. This apparently can cause long response times to Northern Franklin County and other areas at the extreme borders of the county.
“When it’s taking 24 to 28 minutes to get to North Franklin County, I have a problem with that,” Fuller said.
AMR’s Spencer responded to Fuller’s comment.
“That’s exactly the reason the proposal was written the way it was, and to (the Emergency Services Board’s) credit, there are response time requirements that now must be met, and if not, there are penalties that come with that,” Spencer said. “We are certainly not opposed to looking at any possibility that would strengthen the system.”
Finally, Alexander welcomed the Nashville-based First Call Ambulance Service and its representative, Chief Operating Officer Keith Douglas.
First Call Ambulance Service operates 911 emergency services for Cocke County along with six nonemergency branches throughout the state.
Douglas told the board that one option covered in its proposal would provide four ALS ambulances to cover Franklin County 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Douglas asked the board if it would consider looking at assistance in recovering any bad debt incurred within the first six months of service.
The second option would add one BLS ambulance to First Call’s proposed coverage, and this ambulance would be available 10 hours per day during the week, Mondays through Fridays.
This would bring the total number of ambulances up to five, which is one less than the other services’ proposals stipulate.
After receiving copies of each document, board members then had seven days to review each proposal before voting on their chosen candidate at the next scheduled meeting which was Tuesday evening.
The board was expected to select its choice for Franklin County’s emergency and nonemergency ambulance service provider at the meeting
A full report of the Tuesday meeting will appear online later this week at heraldchronicle.com and in the June 20 print edition.
The board’s choice will then be recommended to the Franklin County Commission to make the final decision.