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Commissioners ratify fifty year EMS agreement

NEWTON COUNTY, Ga - The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday evening to ratify an agreement with the county’s Hospital Authority and Piedmont Newton Hospital that could potentially provide emergency medical service in the county for the next 50 years with no financial subsidy from county government.

Under the terms of the Settlement Agreement, Mutual Release and Intergovernmental Agreement, the hospital authority “shall ensure that the Hospital, or any Authorized Sub-contractor providing emergency medical services on behalf of the Authority or the Hospital maintain sufficient well-trained EMS personnel and well-maintained vehicles and equipment sufficient to respond to all calls for ambulance or other emergency medical services within the Service Area at all times.”

The deal comes less than a year after Piedmont Newton told the county it was getting out of the EMS business after the county declined to pay a requested $1.2 million subsidy for the service.

The county subsequently secured an agreement with Grady EMS to provide ambulance service on a short term mutual aid basis until a permanent provider could be found and commenced work on securing its own EMS license.

The hospital then reversed its stance and told the county it would continue to provide the service without a subsidy.

The word “sufficient” is not defined in the agreement. According to attorney Aaron Meyer with the law firm Jarrard & Davis, that will be up to the hospital.

“It was important to both parties that the Hospital/Hospital Authority retain the discretion to effectively manage the operations of EMS.  As the agreement stands, the Hospital and Hospital Authority are required to determine what resources are “sufficient” in good faith and I have no doubt that they will.”

Piedmont Newton spokesperson Sydney D. Walker told The Covington News the hospital runs four 24-hour ambulances and one 12-hour ambulance every day with one daily shift change to serve Newton County’s nearly 106,000 citizens.

She said staffing for Piedmont Newton EMS flexes each day based on the community’s needs.

BOC Chairman Marcello Banes said the agreement will be good for the county.

“The deal states that we will have adequate EMS service in our community at no cost to the taxpayer,“ he said, “ I think it’s a win-win for the citizens of Newton County.

“You’re talking about saving the taxpayers $1.2 million for the next 50 years.”

The agreement calls for Newton County to continue to provide a 911 emergency telephone system and services for use within the county in compliance with Georgia laws and regulations at no charge to the authority, Piedmont Newton or any authorized sub-contractor providing medical services on behalf of the authority or the hospital for the duration of the agreement.

The county also agreed to let the authority, hospital or any sub-contractor  providing EMS on their behalf continue to park ambulances and have employees providing emergency medical services utilize the county’s fire stations without any charge.

The new document terminates the 1972, 1981 and 1983 agreements between the county and the hospital authority for EMS service. A 1983 amendment was terminated as of June 30 last year.

Meyer said unless the parties agree to end, modify of change it, the agreement will be in effect until 2068.

“It lasts for 50 years unless they mutually agree otherwise,” he said.