Ala. EMS to close doors in 8 days after city rejects $1.5M loan request

The city's healthcare authority plans to have a new ambulance service up and running to ensure continued coverage after Sept. 30


Ben Nunnally
The Anniston Star, Ala.

OXFORD, Ala. — Ambulance service in the city will become the responsibility of the Health Care Authority of the City of Oxford beginning Oct. 1, with Oxford Emergency Medical Service closing its doors the day before.

The City Council heard a report at the very end of its meeting Tuesday night from an employee of the ailing ambulance service, acting as a representative of the service’s board of directors, who said that the total debts, unpaid obligations and legal issues weighing on Oxford EMS would cost $1.5 million to pay. Even if the council agreed to pay that money, the employee said, the service would still need a stipend of $100,000 per month to guarantee payroll and buy updated equipment. Without an agreement to provide that money, the employee said, the service would be forced to close on Sept. 30, when payroll money will run dry.

Oxford EMS will close its doors on Sept. 30 after failing to obtain a $1.5 million loan from the city to assist it with debts and other financial problems. (Photo/Oxford EMS Twitter)
Oxford EMS will close its doors on Sept. 30 after failing to obtain a $1.5 million loan from the city to assist it with debts and other financial problems. (Photo/Oxford EMS Twitter)

Council President Chris Spurlin asked Tom Dixon, who had served as the organization’s interim director from March until earlier this month, when he took a job as chief executive officer of the Health Care Authority, if the authority could start operation of an ambulance service for the city by Oct. 1.

“Yes sir, I believe so,” Dixon said, noting that the state law under which the authority was founded last month — purportedly in case the city was approached with a plan to develop a hospital inside the city — allows for municipal health care authorities to operate ambulance services.

Spurlin asked Dixon if employees of Oxford EMS would be given the chance to work with the new ambulance service. Dixon said the authority, having only been created a few weeks ago, has no ambulance employees and would welcome applications from employees of the EMS service.

After comparing and deliberating over the two options before the council — providing the $1.5 million loan and ongoing monthly commitment, or allowing the authority to operate a new ambulance service — Spurlin asked Councilman Mike Henderson if he believed the city should make the loan guarantee; Henderson said he believed it should not, under the circumstances described.

“I would vote to allow the health care authority to take over the EMS service,” Henderson said. Spurlin agreed.

“In the best interest of the taxpayers of our city, we cannot advance a loan of $1.5 million,” Spurlin said, before offering his appreciation to the staff of Oxford EMS for working through difficult times.

The council then adjourned to an executive session to discuss the purchase or sale of real estate. During the meeting, Spurlin noted that there would not be a resolution on which to vote unless the council decided to make the loan.

After the meeting, Dixon said that he is confident the authority will be able to acquire the necessary equipment and ambulances to pick up service “the minute Oxford EMS stops working in the city.”

He will also meet with the Calhoun County 911 Board this week to ensure calls route to the correct service, he said.

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©2020 The Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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