Ala. EMS avoids censure for ambulance shortage
The company failed to meet an agreement to always have three ambulances in service, but a lawyer says the agreement was flawed
By Eric Fleischauer
The Decatur Daily
DECATUR, Ala. — The Decatur EMS Committee declined to take any action against Decatur Emergency Management Service Inc. on Monday for its failure to have three ambulances in service on one day in October.
The committee heard arguments about whether DEMSI was required to follow the terms of a Nov. 20 agreement between the EMS coordinator — Decatur Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Ted McKelvey — and Tessa Green, an executive assistant at DEMSI.
Under terms of the agreement, DEMSI was obligated to have six ambulances in service this month, with a seventh required to enter service next month. DEMSI has not met the agreement.
The city ordinance requires each of the two licensed ambulance services to have at least three ambulances in service.
Barney Lovelace, a lawyer for DEMSI, said the agreement was flawed because it required DEMSI to have more ambulances than the ordinance requires.
Lovelace said DEMSI had only two ambulances in service for less than a day, on Oct. 28. The ambulance service has had at least three ambulances in service since, he said.
"What they agreed to was more than the ordinance required. ... We felt intimidated that we had to (sign it)," Lovelace said. "We've been alleged to have done something wrong, but when you look at the ordinance, we were already in compliance."
Lovelace said the agreement was a goal, not an enforceable agreement.
"That's a serious allegation to make that can have serious business and financial consequences and legal ramifications," Lovelace said. "(McKelvey) can't require us, under the ordinance, to have seven vehicles."
McKelvey said his goal in entering into the agreement with DEMSI was to make sure that it would not fall below three operable ambulances, even if some had maintenance problems or needed routine maintenance.
Assistant City Attorney Chip Alexander agreed that DEMSI had at least three ambulances in service since Oct. 28, but he said the service was bound to follow the agreement. Agreements to resolve a violation of the ordinance, Alexander said, are enforceable by the EMS Committee.
If the EMS Committee had determined the agreement was valid and had been breached, it could have sent the matter to the City Council, which could have altered, suspended or revoked the company's license to operate ambulances in the city.
Three councilmen and the mayor attended the EMS Committee hearing.
The only other ambulance service licensed to operate in Decatur is First Response Ambulance. Several of its employees were present at the meeting.
"I'd like to make a motion that we find them currently in compliance with the process and that we will address that and other alterations of the ordinance as it becomes necessary," EMS Committee member Dale Trammell said.
"So the motion would be that whatever happened in the past, they're in compliance now, and that resolves this?" Alexander asked.
Trammell said that was the intent of his motion, which then passed unanimously.
McKelvey initiated the EMS Committee hearing, but he said he was not disappointed by the result.
"The procedure works," McKelvey said. "The EMS Committee is here for final oversight to determine that everything is going fairly and correctly. That's why I followed the procedure, because whatever applies to one service has to apply to the other."
David Childers, director of operations for DEMSI competitor First Response, declined comment on the EMS Committee's decision.
"I will say that we are operating above the minimum and approximately two weeks from today, we will be operating above the three-ambulance minimum standard with 14 ambulances," Childers said.