County Commissioner Jason Winters is looking at the possibility of an outside provider taking over ambulance service in Chattooga County.  While the decision has not yet been made as to the future of the county-run ambulance service, there are many questions to be answered.

Chattooga County has seen a steady increase in ambulance calls.  Chattooga County EMS Director Herbert Dodd has stated that many of the calls are related to the bad economy – people who can’t afford to go to the doctor call an ambulance to go to the emergency room – while others have the mistaken idea that going to the hospital in an ambulance gives them a shorter wait time.  Whatever the reason, ambulance service is seeing an increase in demand.

When the Chattooga County Ambulance service began, Chattooga County had a hospital in Summerville.  Without the hospital locally, it means a longer transport and more costs for the county.  Some portions of Chattooga County are just under 50 miles away from Floyd Medical Center in Rome.  The ambulance service was set up to be funded by the Malt Beverage Tax in Chattooga County.  Figures show that the collection of Malt Beverage Tax has seen a decrease for several years.

So what happens to the money from the Malt Beverage Tax if the Commissioner goes with Redmond or Floyd for ambulance service?  Commissioner Winters told AM 1180 that the Malt Beverage Tax brings in around $220,000 a year to the county, but that money must be used for "emergency services."  Winters said that the money could be used to help fund better equipment for local fire departments.  Also, the money could be used to improve Chattooga County’s ISO rating.  The ISO rating is what homeowners’ insurance rates are based on.  With an improved ISO rating Chattooga County property owners could see a significant decrease in their homeowners insurance rates.

Not everyone is in favor of the switch to a private run ambulance service.  While the Commissioner has told both Floyd and Redmond that one of the conditions of turning over the service would be keeping current EMS employees, many still have concerns on how the move would affect the current staff.  Others have told AM 1180 that they are concerned that Floyd or Redmond would not be dedicated to Chattooga County and that the county could find itself with less caring, out of town EMS workers who don’t know or understand the community. 

While many Chattooga residents are expressing concern, some Floyd County residents don’t like the idea of Floyd Medical Center providing service in Chattooga County.  They contend that Floyd County tax payers subsidize Floyd Medical Center and Floyd County should be their first priority.

A meeting will be held on December 14 at the Chattooga County Civic Center to discuss the proposals from Floyd and Redmond and to see the costs for Chattooga County to expand ambulance service on its own.  Commissioner Winters has also left the possibility of a second public meeting if he feels there are still questions and concerns from the public.