Ambulance services put on probation
Council gives American, Lifecare 90 days to improve reponse times
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle's two ambulance services have 90 days to improve their response times or face having their licenses pulled.
American Ambulance and Lifecare Ambulance, both of which serve the Hartselle area, have until the end of March to show improvement in the time it takes them to respond to an emergency. If there's no improvement, city officials say they will consider other options, including revoking the licenses and contracting with another carrier.
The probation period comes on the heels of a response time study conducted by the Hartselle Police Department. Hartselle ordinances require ambulance services to be the first responder on the scene within eight minutes on at least 90 percent of its calls.
Those requirements aren't being met, according to the study.
Out of 241 calls in the last nine months, American Ambulance responded in less than eight minutes 69 percent of the time. Response time was more than eight minutes for 31 percent, or 75, calls.
In the same nine-month period of time, Lifecare responded to 251 calls, meeting the eight-minute goal 74 percent of the time. Response time was more than eight minutes for 26 percent, or 67 calls.
Ambulance company officials dispute these numbers, saying dispatchers do not always report accurate response times.
Even if there are some discrepancies in reporting, it wouldn't be enough to bring the companies into compliance, according to City Councilman Tom Chappell.
"There may be a little discrepancy in some of the numbers, but I don't think we will go from 63 percent to 10 percent," Chappell said. "We've got a real problem here."
If the probation period doesn't solve the problem, the city is looking at two other options:
The council approved the two licenses on a temporary basis Tuesday night.
Under this plan, the city would not transport victims, but would stabilize those at the scene.
The fire department currently has one vehicle equipped for first response. It is located at station one. Another truck would have to be equipped for station two.
Equipping the truck would cost about $1,000.
That's not a good option, according to Knight.
"We don't know want the city of Hartselle's fire department to become an ambulance service," Knight said.