Councilmembers unanimously voted Monday to have City Manager John Kachmar contact the state’s EMS Zone Council to try to resolve the city’s issues with the low level of ambulance service and the increasing costs.
Kachmar explained the state mandates which ambulance group serves different regions in Georgia without any direct input from individual municipalities. He said Rural Metro Ambulance has not been meeting the standards of service outlined in its contract.
While Johns Creek paramedics and fire personnel are generally the first responders on the scene of an emergency, by state law they must rely on Rural Metro Ambulance to transport patients to hospitals and medical centers, Kachmar said. The response time for transport should be eight minutes, he explained, but has averaged closer to 15 to 20 minutes.
He also said there is only one ambulance that serves the whole city, and this summer Rural Metro plans to raise the rates it charges north Fulton municipalities.
Kachmar proposed amending part of the city’s contract with Rural Metro, suggesting Johns Creek use its first responders and the city’s two quick response vehicles to transport patients and then have Rural Metro reimburse the costs to the city. He said the response time for Johns Creek personnel to reach emergency victims is about five to six minutes.
Although councilmembers agreed a change needs to be made with the quality of ambulance service, they did not jump on board with Kachmar’s suggestions to amending the contract. Councilman Ivan Figueroa made the motion to have Kachmar instead communicate to the EMS Zone Council to see if Johns Creek and the state council could strike up an alternative solution to improve service. Having Johns Creek take on emergency transportation service would increase the risks and liabilities to the city, he said.
Mayor Mike Bodker agreed. He said having city personnel run emergency victims to the hospital would also take time away from first responders available in the city, and Johns Creek would be responsible for having to replace its quick response vehicles more often.
Councilmembers discussed asking the state to open up options to allow a different ambulance provider take over, but Figueroa said he wanted to leave all possibilities for resolution open.
While councilwoman Kelly Stewart said negotiating with the state council would be a good first step, she also suggested city council discuss concerns with local legislators about the state’s ambulance service laws.