Two EMS providers vying for Chatham County contract - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Two EMS providers vying for Chatham County contract

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

Two companies are facing-off to be the EMS provider for part of Chatham County.

Coastal EMS and the current provider, Southside Fire, have submitted bids to the County Commission. But what appears to be the county's recommendation may end up costing more of your taxpayer dollars.

The bids are to provide EMS service to Zone 3, which covers the islands, and Zone 4, which covers the western part of the county, including Garden City, Pooler, and Port Wentworth.

Right now, Southside Fire provides service to those areas, but when the County Commission placed the zones out to bid last November, Coastal EMS threw their hat in the ring.

The Atlanta-based company offered a competitive $875,000 a year for service, but now, Southside says they can renew their contract for only $600,000 a year due to some operational tweaks.

"We've moved some station-based units into what's called a flexible deployment model, where multiple units come out of bases and then they post on street corners so that they work shorter shifts and they can respond more rapidly,” said Chuck Kearns, CEO of Southside Fire.
He told me Southside has 37 ambulances compared to the roughly 20 ambulances Coastal EMS would have in the market, if they were awarded the contract. Plus, Southside also offers fire service.

"So today, we had a fire. We were called, we broke in and got to an unconscious lady on the floor, and we had firefighter-paramedics there and we resuscitated her and put the fire out. Coastal can't put the fire out. They're still going to need us to do that,” said Kearns. “We get it
all done in one fell swoop.”

Kearns sent out a memo to employees this week saying the Chatham County Commission was considering giving Coastal the contract. It also states Southside has handled 125 calls for Coastal in the last two months alone.

But Coastal's CEO says that's inaccurate, and so is the rest of the memo.

"They failed to mention that we had calls turned over by their other contract to us because they're not available... and quite frankly we would rather turn a call over to another provider than to have a customer wait and suffer any detriment unlike maybe some other folks," said Pete Quinones, President and CEO of MetroAtlanta Ambulance Service, Coastal EMS’s parent company.
If Coastal EMS is awarded the contract, it would affect about 45 Southside employees who currently work in those EMS zones. Kearns says they would have the option to leave and seek employment with Coastal EMS if they desired, of course, but Southside would try to fill as many of their vacancies as possible with those affected employees.

“We think we can bring a higher level of care, a better patient outcome to the citizens and visitors of Chatham County,” said Quinones. “We’re very excited, we’re going to be having a job fair if this goes through, and it will be undoubtedly a Chatham and surrounding area recruitment on our part.”
As of Thursday, county staff had recommended the contract be awarded to Coastal EMS; it was listed on the agenda for Friday’s Chatham County Commission meeting. However, the item was pulled from the agenda at the last-minute Thursday evening and was postponed to the commission’s June 24th meeting.

WTOC reached out to the Chatham County Commission and the County Manager's offices Thursday, but they did not make anyone available for comment.

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