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Michigan County to Streamline Ambulance System

FLINT, Mich. — It took nearly three years for the county Board of Commissioners to agree on an ordinance that will change the way people get to the hospital.

So, after members voted unanimously Tuesday to set up a system that could cut the number of ambulance companies here from 10 to as few as one, officials said they won t rush to implement it.

County Commissioner Jamie Curtis, D-Burton, predicted it will take a full year to switch from the current system, which allows licensed companies to set up bases where they wish.

Curtis, a key figure in shepherding the new regulation through the county commission, said the county needs to hire an emergency medical services coordinator, set up an oversight office, and hire one or two companies to take over all transports.

The result will be improved overall response time, he said.

Some local ambulance companies could join together to bid on at least one of the two coverage zones – north and south – created by the vote, he said.

I feel comfortable there s going to be several proposals to pick from, and the local people have as good a shot as anybody, Curtis said.

Jim Grady, operations director for Patriot Ambulance Service, is hoping Patriot will still be part of the new system.

Patriot and representatives of other companies have complained about the new ordinance almost since the idea was proposed by a consultant in early 2006.

It s the equivalent of using a shotgun to kill a mosquito, Grady said.

Meghan Belcher of Emergency Med Stat also asked commissioners to reconsider.

Look behind me and you see people who have served very well. We have served this community with the very best intentions, she said before the vote Tuesday. Tell us what you need and give us the chance to provide.

The county currently allows private ambulance companies to set up bases where they want with no requirements regarding response times.

The new system would dispatch only ambulance companies that have contracted with the county.

Public health officials and a consultant have said that changes in the current system are necessary to lower response times – particularly in rural areas – where companies haven t been inclined to go.

The new ordinance also provides penalties for companies if they fail to reach patients within nine minutes more than 10 percent of the time.

Our response times will improve over time, said county Health Officer Robert Pestronk.

What happens now?

Here are the steps County Commissioner Jamie Curtis, D-Burton, expects to unfold as Genesee County implements a new ordinance regulating ambulance service:

  • Hire an emergency medical services coordinator to oversee the new system, including one or two transport ambulance companies chosen to cover part or all of the county.
  • Set up a committee to work with the new coordinator to develop a request for proposals for companies interested in bidding on the job.
  • Contract with one or two companies to provide ambulance service throughout two zones in the county.