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Home > Topics > Ambulances / Emergency Vehicles

Ala. medics walk off job, demand paychecks

Employees apparently staged a brief walkout to protest erratic paydays; its ambulances were out of service for upward of three hours

The Decatur Daily

DECATUR, Ala. — Decatur Emergency Medical Services Inc. may have violated its agreement with the city when its ambulances were out of service for upward of three hours Friday, a member of the city’s EMS Committee said.

Decatur’s two ambulance services are each required to daily operate two 24-hour trucks and a 12-hour truck.

DEMSI employees apparently staged a brief walkout to protest erratic paydays. The company’s first truck went off-line at 5:30 p.m. DEMSI did not have trucks providing service between 5:54 and about 8:30 p.m.

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Committee member Dale Trammell said Saturday that DEMSI’s apparent financial problems are an ongoing concern that could lead to contract termination.

“If they can’t keep units on the road because they can’t pay people, we might have to look at their CPNC,” Trammell said.

The CPNC, or certificate of public necessity and convenience, is the ambulance service’s deal with the city.

Councilman Charles Kirby, the City Council liaison to the EMS Committee, agreed with Trammell.

Kirby said city code and DEMSI’s contract “don’t care how you go below three trucks. You don’t get below three trucks.”

Ryan Welty, Morgan County 911 director, said First Response, the city’s other ambulance service, was providing most of the coverage Saturday.

First Response had five medic trucks and three basic trucks operating Saturday while DEMSI had two medic trucks online.

“They’re not meeting the guidelines, but two is better than none,” said Ted McKelvey, Decatur Fire and Rescue Battalion chief and EMS coordinator.

McKelvey said city attorneys will look at whether DEMSI violated its contract.

City Council President Gary Hammon said the city needs to enforce its ordinance, which requires an ambulance service to show it is financially able to provide the service when it applies for a certificate.

“Accurate financial statements are supposed to be a part of the approval process,” Hammon said. “Maybe we’re not enforcing a part of our ordinance as we should be.”

Kirby said the EMS Committee is doing its job, but it is an advisory group. He thinks the monitoring process is flawed.

“We need to enforce the code, which requires financial stability,” Kirby said.

Hammon said Friday’s incident confirmed the city needs more than one provider.

First Response became the city’s second ambulance provider in May 2012. It marked the first time Decatur has had multiple ambulance services since 1988.

First Response added two ambulances to avoid the gap in service. It had five ambulances in service for most of the time DEMSI was down.

Welty said First Response employees on the two ambulances extended their shift to provide the coverage.

Kirby said going to two services has been successful in reducing response times. He said he doesn’t think competition is the reason DEMSI may be struggling financially.

“You haven’t heard of the other ambulance service having problems with payroll and lapses in coverage,” Kirby said.

Officials said any moves against DEMSI would start with the EMS Committee. Its next meeting isn’t scheduled until April, so a special meeting would be necessary for immediate action.

The City Council has final say on whether to cancel a contract.

DEMSI General Manager Frankie Thaxton and attorney Barney Lovelace could not be reached for comment.

Copyright 2014 The Decatur Daily

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

All Rights Reserved

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Alex Wharrie Alex Wharrie Tuesday, February 11, 2014 8:00:10 AM Sounds like it's time to have Falck Emergency Services take over that service.
Alan Yates Alan Yates Tuesday, February 11, 2014 10:31:36 PM They did NOT stage a "brief protest". When they were told, for the umpteenth time, that they were not going to be paid they refused to work without pay and were apparently prepared to leave the service and find jobs where they would be paid. This is not the first time the owner of the service has either failed to pay them or bounced their checks when they were paid. He owns another service in the state and has done the employees there the same way. The employees returned to work but there was no lapse of service to Decatur since there was another service there that took the slack. I do not blame the employees of DEMSI. There is a contract and if Decatur wants to I'm sure they can void it but there won't be any service "taking over that service" since it's a private company and can't be "taken" over. It would be nice if someone who knows how could start a service there and get the contract.
J.t. Cantrell J.t. Cantrell Wednesday, February 12, 2014 6:49:48 AM As sad as it is EMS workers are occasionally forced to do something like this. They are in a vacuum in that no entity seems to be speaking for them or standing up for them. A similar situation in another state led to the formation of a service based upon a hybrid public utility model. The move in that case was a mass resignation after which the employees' representative met with city officials and stated that they would work without pay until the situation was resolved. They put everything they had on the line and kept their word. I fear that EMS may be viewed by some as a disposable labor force. Asking workers to remain in difficult or untenable situations is unfair.
Randy Blocker Randy Blocker Thursday, February 13, 2014 8:01:16 PM I don't blame these medics in the least bit since I've been where they're standing and had 'Mom & Pop' services messing with the money they earned. I'm not saying it's the best way to handle it but as we all know doing this job that it is one that is underpaid most of the time for what we have to do, deal with and go through to have your hard earned paycheck messed with. I have in my own experience stood by and helped a company in tough times to only be stabbed in the back in the end of it so now I stand by my pay check for my family and they come before any company from now own! So I salute you guys for standing your ground for yourselves and your families!

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