By Richard Rourk
On Thursday, May 1, the Unicoi County Ambulance Committee met to discuss temporary options for ambulance service in Unicoi County. Unicoi County Ambulance Chairman John Mosley called the meeting to order at 1 p.m. and was joined by committee members Glenn White, Marie Rice, Mark Lafever and Jeff Linville. Linville was filling in for Town of Unicoi Mayor and committee member Johnny Lynch, who had a prior meeting to attend.
Mosley discussed the option of accepting Washington County/Johnson City EMS services temporarily, while Unicoi County officials decide if they want to create their own ambulance service or accept a bid from an outside agency for ambulance services.
“They gave an estimate on an operation plan for an interlocal agreement for one year, priced at $218,677,” Mosley said. “They can supply us 24 hours a day for seven days a week with two ALS (Advanced Life Support) ambulances, and one BLS (Basic Life Support) ambulance for five days a week, 10 hours a day, for the $218,677.”
According to Mosley, there are two options to staff the Washington County/Johnson City EMS. Mosley stated that Washington County/Johnson City EMS would take on the current MedicOne staff or Unicoi County could take on the salaries of the staff for a projected lower priced subsidy.
The committee agreed to discuss the proposal to the full Unicoi County Commission during the May 20 Unicoi County Commission meeting.
“I would recommend that the full commission meet and then any questions we may have, send those to Mr. (Dan) Wheely,” Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely said.
Unicoi County commissioner and ambulance committee member Marie Rice agreed with Evely.
“I think that is what is best to do,” Rice said. “It gives us a chance to ask questions and get the answers we need going forward.”
The committee voted unanimously to discuss the proposal with the full Unicoi County Commission at the May 20 Unicoi County Commission meeting and to have Evely and Unicoi County Attorney Doug Shults take any questions and concerns back to Washington County/Johnson City EMS following the May 20 meeting. Rice made the motion and White seconded the motion.
Prior to that May 20 meeting, the Unicoi County Ambulance Committee will meet on Monday, May 13, at 11 a.m. at the Unicoi County Courthouse. Washington County/Johnson City EMS Director of Operations Dan Wheely will be present for informational purposes.
MedicOne Operations Manager Rebecca Bach was on hand last week and wanted to discuss concerns that the current staff of MedicOne had going forward. Bach was concerned that the staff would lose money by losing overtime opportunities.
“You are going to lose a lot of talent if they cannot offer equivalent pay or overtime opportunities,” Bach said. “I think everyone is nervous.”
Bach did acknowledge that the benefits package that Washington County provides are of quality.
“I understand where you are coming from, and we want to do what’s best for you, but we also have to do what’s best for the citizens of the county,” Mosley said.