Saturday Dec. 31, 2016
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Starting Dec. 31 at midnight rates for Gold Cross ambulance service go up.
Commissioner Sean Frantom tweeted the rates go up at midnight and a transfer or $250 or more is in effect.
The Gold Cross contract expires starting Jan. 1, 2017.
The city did not reach a compromise on a new contract with the ambulance service after cutting its subsidy by about $700,000 in the city budget for 2017.
The city budgeted for $380,000 for Gold Cross for next year, the ambulance provider countered at around $900,000. The compromise was made by the end of the year.
Gold Cross is the zone provider for the county so they will still provide ambulance service to the county even without a contract.
City leaders are expected to revisit the issue at the first meeting of the new year on Jan. 3.
News 12 NBC 26 @ 11:00 / Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Only eighteen days left on the city's contract with Gold Cross, and so far they have not been able to finalize a deal for next year. Augusta commissioners asked for an update on the progress and the two sides are very divided.
There's a lot of ground to cover on city's contract with Gold Cross. This year the city cut Gold Cross's budget by 65% from a more than a million dollars to 380 thousand dollars. Gold Cross countered with around 900 thousand dollars.
"Anytime as a business owner you cut 65% you're cutting people, you're cutting quality, you're cutting service," Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said.
Gold Cross says the level of service you get will stay the same. But if the city pays less the price you pay may be higher.The cost per mile and the response fee could go up. It could also impact how many ambulances are out on the road.
"We have to pay what we can afford. Augusta can't pay millions and millions of dollars every year to a company because they say they have some indigent patients that can't pay," Commissioner Sammie Sias said.
Gold Cross says around 120,000 of the roughly 200,000 people living in Augusta are on Medicaid, Medicare, or have no insurance. That means that a lot of the calls they respond to they do not get all of the money or any money for transporting patients.
The city says some of the numbers don't match up. The city administrator said city records show Gold Cross responded to 16,000 calls, Gold Cross says 40,000. Gold Cross says those numbers differ because sometimes they have to send more ambulances out.
"A bad car wreck on I-20 or Highway 56, which is daily, we send several ambulances and a supervisory vehicle. We're trying to take care of the needs of the citizens," Gold Cross CEO Vince Brogdon said.
The city says it also adds up when fire crews help Gold Cross on calls. The city administrator said they spent $740,000 for their own staff to provide EMS services in 2015. Some things they helped with including lifting patients and even riding along in the Gold Cross ambulances. That means the city is spending 1.8 to 1.9 million dollars total for EMS services for the city.
Brogdon said the city fire department approached them about responding to more calls.
"I didn't ask them to go, they said they have a first responder program, they want to go," he said.
Bogus calls to 911 are a problem too, right down to people who call for an ambulance for things like a stuffy nose. Gold Cross has to respond every time. The city administrator said part of this is an education program. The city's new public information officer is now working with the new 911 Director to come up with an educational campaign to inform citizens on when they should or shouldn't call 911.
Commissioners also expressed some concern over how long these talks were delayed. Gold Cross says they tried to approach negotiations earlier this summer, but nothing was discussed until the budget talks around October.
"We made good faith efforts to start negotiations in the summer. I hate that it's come down to the wire, I wish we had time to talk about these negotiations months prior to this," Brogdon said.
For now both sides are working to find a solution.
"I hope we can reach a common ground but that doesn't really matter in terms of service. You heard the attorney say and other people say, they have to provide this service," Commissioner Sammie Sias said.
Gold Cross is the zoned provider for Augusta so they are legally obligated to respond to calls with or without a contract. The subsidy is what the city can pay Gold Cross in order to help pay for people who can't afford ambulance services in the county. Gold Cross says the other surrounding counties they provide services for, Burke, Columbia, and Jenkins, all pay them a subsidy.
"We have to remember, Gold Cross fought us to get this responsibility. They fought us in the state department of health and they fought us in court," Sias said.
"I hate that we're even having this discussion, and the citizens are going to feel the impact," Guilfoyle said.
Gold Cross' attorney says a contract helps the city have more control over Gold Cross. Without a contract, only the state law governs the company.
Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Gold Cross CEO, Vince Brogdon, was at the meeting. There was question on if Gold Cross talk should be moved to Public Safety since it was on the agenda as Administration.
Clerk did as Comm. Guilfoyle requested, clerk said she believed the commission would do its business to address it @WRDW_WAGT— Lindsay Tuman (@lindsayWRDW) December 13, 2016
Commissioner Guilfoyle requested Gold Cross be put on the agenda and he asked the administrator for a progress report. The City Administrator said there are basically four problems which include: misuse of 911 stating people call when they don't need emergency transport, discrepancies in how many calls the city has recorded of them responding to versus the number Gold Cross says they responded to, the city pays a lot of money to city employees assisting on Gold Cross calls and EMS services outside of Gold Cross, and that they're asking all departments to cut costs not just Gold Cross.
Commissioner Guilfoyle says he cannot fathom how the city administrator came up with the $700 thousand cut because in business that usually just means a drop in service. Sammie Sias said they have no legal authority to take care of ambulance services in the county because Gold Cross is zoned by the state as a provider. According to the city attorney, Gold Cross is zoned so they have to respond to 911 calls.
The city administrator said the $700 thousand cut is the number the city can afford and could not provide how they got that number. The city administrator said they should be able to give an update on the contract next week.
City administrator says the city is not the only source of revenue for Gold Cross @WRDW_WAGT— Lindsay Tuman (@lindsayWRDW) December 13, 2016
Commissioner Ben Hasan said Gold Cross is obligated to do the service and the city administrator cut from a lot of areas in the budget.
"Who's child, husband, or wife are we going to sacrifice because we can't afford it," M williams stresses negotions should have been done— Lindsay Tuman (@lindsayWRDW) December 13, 2016
There's was motion and a second to allow the city administrator to go back to negotiations but Gold Cross began talking. Gold Cross said a lot of the times they respond to car accidents and have to send multiple units. Gold Cross said they proposed a 32 percent drop in their 2006 subsidy of $1.3 million. All the other counties Gold Cross works with have subsidies, Columbia County is about $500 thousand.
No action was taken on Gold Cross Tuesday without a quorum.