UNICOI COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – Leaders of Unicoi County are no closer to deciding the future of ambulance service in the county after a near 3 hour meeting Wednesday.
MedicOne is the current ambulance service in Unicoi County.
Last month, leaders announced they are considering dropping MedicOne and creating their own ambulance service.
During a meeting Wednesday between county and city leaders, along with MedicOne, county commission ambulance committee members said low staffing and having only two ambulances is causing issues.
“We have to staff for the what if and there is a cost to that staff. There is a cost of readiness and it’s about half a million dollars per ambulance,” said CEO of MedicOne, Jim Reeves.
Unicoi County has about 2 years left in its contract with MedicOne and is weighing the option of creating its own ambulance service.
“There are going to be a lot of hidden challenges if the county were to start their own, they’re not going to find out about those bumps in the road until they get there,” Reeves said.
“We have 6,000 residents in the town of Erwin. Since January 1st our police officers have had to respond to 264 calls because there was not an ambulance available or because there wasn’t enough personnel with the ambulance authority to answer that call,” said Erwin Mayor, Doris Hensley.
Mayor Hensley said she applied for a grant to create a separate ambulance service for the city of Erwin if problems aren’t worked out.
“He’s got 18 months to prove himself and if he proves to me that he can sufficiently protect the town of Erwin then I’ll go along with the county contract with him,” Mayor Hensley said.
Meanwhile, the Mayor of Unicoi County, Greg Lynch, says he wants to try to work everything out with MedicOne.
“I think this is something that we can work out and continue to keep the citizens safe,” said Mayor Lynch.
Reeves told News Channel 11, “I don’t want to see a situation where the ambulance service is treated like a vendor or a contractor, because we’re not. We are a public safety solution and that requires a partnership between not only us but the city, the county government and the hospital”.
The committee is scheduled to meet with MedicOne again in January.
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