Orange Beach is taking steps to become the only city in Baldwin County to provide its own ambulance service in a move Mayor Tony Kennon said is partly due to heavy traffic in the resort town.
“It’s almost impossible for an outside agency to provide, just strictly from the logistics of moving south through the traffic and moving about with all that’s going on in the summer,” Kennon said. “This is no reflection on Medstar in any negative way. It’s just our ability to do something most folks aren’t able to do for our citizens.”
Rebekah McCarron of Medstar thanked the city for its past service in a Nov. 6 City Council meeting, but questioned the city’s plan in an email to Lagniappe.
“We have respectfully informed the Orange Beach City Council that we feel their plan for starting a city-run ambulance service is deeply flawed and risky,” McCarron wrote. “The plan projects revenue which is grossly overestimated. As a major trend nationwide over the past 20 years or more, a great many communities have discontinued operating their own ambulance service and reduced their costs and liability by contracting with private entities for the service.”
The rest of Baldwin County is under a contract with the company. Medstar is part of Birmingham-based Lifeguard, an emergency services company that also operates several 911 systems across the Gulf Coast, including Baldwin County, the city of Flomaton, Alabama, and Santa Rosa County in Florida.
“As for Baldwin County, all municipalities have historically participated in the countywide EMS system, which provides for a collaborative high-quality, responsive and well-equipped and well-resourced service,” McCarron wrote. “Medstar EMS has a fleet of more than 24 ambulances dedicated to Baldwin County. Each day, Medstar EMS routinely deploys more than 16 ambulances, other advanced first-responder vehicles and a medical helicopter to address emergencies.”
Kennon said the relationship will continue as Medstar will be on standby to help out when the city’s service is overwhelmed.
“There are plenty of times in the summer when we’ve got more than two running so we’ll need Medstar there with us throughout the summer,” Kennon said. “We feel like we can get our own ambulances and staff them here on the island and be able to be at your doorstep in three to four minutes ready to transport.”
According to the city’s plan, it hopes revenue from the service will pay for the personnel costs. The city plans to man two new ambulances with six veteran paramedics already on staff and hire new firefighters to fill those spots.
Orange Beach voted Nov. 13 to spend more than $600,000 for two ambulances from a Texas company. The city voted the same night to spend $1.2 million for two new fire trucks. Officials expect the service to be up and running by spring 2019.