BOC approves EMS contract with Mid-GA

Ashley Biles Associate Editor

December 26, 2013

Over the last few weeks there has been much discussion about the fate of Upson Ambulance Company, LLC and possibility of a sale of the company to Mid Georgia Ambulance (MGA). According to Commission Chairman Rusty Blackston, MGA has purchased the company and equipment from Upson Regional Medical Center (who owns Upson Ambulance Company) and will be taking over operations as of January 1, 2014. During a special called meeting held last Friday, December 20, the Board of Commissioners finalized a contract with MGA to provide ambulance service to the county for the next five years at $300,000 a year with no increase.

Blackston stated per the contract MGA will provide two ALS (advanced life support) units, plus a third transport unit that can be used for medical emergencies, that will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He noted the contract the county has had in the past was only for one unit and now they know they will be contracted for three total units.

When discussing the budget for 2014, Chairman Blackston stated the contract the board was offered from URMC for the ambulance service was for $616,000 a year for three years, with a three percent increase. In a press release last week, Blackston noted he had personally contacted URMC CEO David Castleberry several times to negotiate a lower price, however he was told there was no way the hospital could go any lower than the amount submitted. The change in service will save the county $316,000 a year; however, Blackston noted the decision to sell Upson Ambulance Company was made by the hospital, not the Board of Commissioners.

“I want y’all to think about this, the Board of Vommissioners have not had a dog in this fight until it came down to where we had to do something to contract with another company,” said Blackston. “We don’t own it, we don’t man it, and we don’t operate it. But everybody in the county seems to have the opinion this board is who runs your services. We are just trying to represent the taxpayers and provide service to the best of our ability, at the cheapest rate and give quality service.”

Several Upson EMS personnel were present at the meeting and spoke with The Thomaston Times afterwards stating they are fine with the move to MGA.

“We all agree Mid Georgia is the best decision,” said Casey Harris, an EMT with Upson EMS. “We appreciate all Rusty has done. He returned all our calls and was there for us in any way he could be.”

Sherry Minchew, who has been serving as Interim Director of Upson EMS since the resignation of former director Richard Lee last month, stated the employees have had nothing against working for MGA from the beginning. The thing they were upset about was that no one had told them of the possible change in ownership before they read about it in The Thomaston Times earlier this month.

“We will make this as smooth a transition as we can and will continue to give citizens as best of services as we can,” she said.

Blackston closed out the meeting stating this had been a tough decision and one the board had looked at from every angle possible before finalizing it.

“I thank you for what you have done,” said Blackston, speaking to the EMS personnel. “I hate to see an institution like this (Upson Ambulance Company) close that has been here since about ’75. I’m an old retired EMT myself, so I know what you do and it’s not always pretty. I think (the problem) with this transition, a lot of it was because you were not informed. I think it would have been a lot better if you had been. We were not trying to hide anything. It was mentioned in public meetings. As negotiations went on with the hospital and we were turned down, we began to look in every direction we could to make sure that we had an ambulance service come January 1. Mid Georgia has been very generous in working with us and I think they will provide a good service.”

The LLC license for the organization will now be listed as Upson Ambulance Company doing business as Mid Georgia Ambulance.