LEE COUNTY, AL (WTVM) - The Lee County Commission chambers were full Monday as officials from both the Smiths Station Volunteer Fire Department and the East Alabama Medical Center discussed ambulance services for the county.
The Fire Department's Board sent a letter to EAMC on Feb. 10 stating the hospital's refusal to communicate led them to believe the hospital was no longer working in the interest of Smiths Station citizens.
At no cost to tax payers, they then asked Lifestar Response, or Care, ambulances for a second vehicle in addition to their one they have had since 2012.
"Our board voted in the direction of bringing in a second ambulance from Care and asking EMS to vacate a station. At no point have we attempted to tell them what they can or cannot answer and they are certainly welcome to answer any calls in Smith Station. Obviously that ambulance can be utilized elsewhere in the County," explains Daniel Sexton of the Smith Station Volunteer Fire Department.
Lee County 911 is still dispatching EAMC ambulances to Smiths Station while the volunteer fire department is sending Lifestar ambulances to the same call.
EAMC responded to the issue by saying they are there to fulfill their contractual duties and are adhering to jurisdictional lines that were drawn in past commission meetings.
"That line that was drawn in previous meetings is being honored. It its over that line we call Care ambulances and ask them to go there for us. What is not being honored is the line going the other way. Yes, the Volunteer Fire Department did ask us to leave, but we still have a contractual obligation, says Joe Martin of EAMC.
Both sides agree that something has to be done about response time, for example, when an ambulance coming from Opelika takes 30 minutes to make it to patients in Smith Station.
"Our perspective on it is that each one of those five ambulances cost the government somewhere in the neighborhood of $170,000 a year to have parked in this county and we have brought two additional ambulances to the county and not cost to the county," says Sexton.
"It does not improve the quality of care," explains Martin. "What it's done is fractured the type of care and who it's coming from."