COVINGTON, Ga. - The Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted during a special called meeting Tuesday night to not pursue a license to provide Emergency Medical Services (EMS) for the county, opting instead to let the State of Georgia find a provider.
After being notified that the BOC had voted to end funding for ambulance service, Piedmont Newton Hospital said it would no longer provide the service. The hospital has provided ambulance service for the county for more than four decades. According Newton County Public Information Officer Bryan Fazio county EMS funding for FY 2017 has totaled $1,015,908.
Piedmont Newton spokesperson Sydney D. Walker told The Covington News in a statement that Piedmont Newton is the only hospital in the Piedmont system that currently operates an ambulance service.
Commissioners instructed County Attorney Megan Martin to notify Region 3 of the State Office of EMS and Trauma that the county does not want to secure a license to provide the service and ask that they to find an EMS provider for the county. Region 3 includes Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Rockdale counties.
Prior to the vote, Commissioner Nancy Schulz voiced concern about the county losing control over choosing an EMS provider.
“It just seems to me that local control is optimal anytime you have that opportunity,” she said.
Commissioner Ronnie Cowan expressed concern about the transition process.
“I’m actually fine with giving it over to the state,” he said. “I’m more concerned about a proper transition time for the hospital and for notice to the public and for the 911 Center, if there’s any discussion they need to have.”
Cowan suggested that funding continue until July 31 to allow for the transition.
Region 3 EMS Director EJ Dailey told commissioners the Region 3 Council would establish a zoning committee who would look at proposed ambulance services to make sure they are insured services, licensed through the state and ensure they could provide what the county is requesting.
She also told commissioners that not owning the ambulance license and allowing the state to pick a service does not mean the BOC does not have any further say.
“You have a direct avenue to my office,” she said. “Even if you have an ambulance service that you had no input in selecting, and there were problems arising from that, you have a right to come to my office and file a complaint.
“By doing so, you have a right for me to investigate that complaint.”
Dailey said within a time frame spelled out by law, she will have to notify all of the licensed services in the region that the zone is open in Newton County. The services will then have a time frame to make application. It will be the zoning committee’s responsibility to pick to pick the best provider for the county.
She told commissioners the zoning committee would ask for their input about what they would like to see in the county and take those ideas into consideration in the selection process.
Dailey also told commissioners the final decision for an EMS provider for the county will be made by a physician at the state office.
The BOC approved by a 3-1 vote to extend the agreement with Piedmont Newton Hospital until July 31 while the state selects the next EMS provider for the county. Commissioner J.C. Henderson was the opposing vote.