County will ‘take a look’ at outside source for EMS service

Anderson County Commission’s Operation Committee will begin looking at “other options” for the county’s emergency medical services (EMS) when the body meets Monday, May 13.

American Medical Response (AMR) has been added to the Operations Committee agenda.

During the April Operations Committee meeting District 1 Commissioner Tracy Wandell said the county needed to look at other options for EMS.

That does not mean the county is going to quit operating an EMS — but it is going to look at options.

“We, as a body, would not be doing our duty if we didn’t look at other options,” Wandell said.

During April’s Operations Committee meeting Anderson County EMS Director Nathan Sweet was asked about the short term and long-term plans for EMS.

“This is the guiding document,” Wandell said of Sweet’s plan. “It is the business plan. But what happens if certain things aren’t met?”

Sweet offered different budget models for the committee to look at and he pointed out there were factors that needed to be looked at more closely. “The number of stations will depend on what we want to achieve in response time,” Sweet said.

As an example: Response time to communities such as Briceville and New River would be no different than anywhere else in the county. But for EMS to have that response time to those communities, EMS has to “cheat away” from the Marlow Community.

Sweet said the different models would allow him to work more closely with County Commission.

The EMS director was asked about staffing.

Sweet said staffing is complicated. He told the committee that he recruits through “word of mouth,” and schools, like Roane State.

Sweet said staffing EMS is different. He said as a regional partner with other EMS, departments are “trying to steal employees from each other.” In those instances the pay scale is often the deciding factor.

Chairman of the Operations Committee, District 7 Commissioner Jerry Creasey, said Sweet should take more advantage of the county’s Human Resources Department when looking for new staff.

He added, “I feel very pessimistic that you can keep your staffing as it needs to be. They (potential hires) can make more money working at McDonald’s.

In making his announcement that the county will look at other options, Wandell said, “It’s nothing personal. You understand that. But the commission needs to look at other options.”

If the county should go in that direction it will not be an overnight change.

In an e-mailed response to a question this week Wandell said it would be up to Operations Committee and its members if any additional action will be taken.

“The main area of concern for me as a Commissioner is our county’s response time and our county going ‘code white’ too often,” he said. “’Code white’ means we have no resources available.”

District 3 Commissioner Denver Waddell, who serves on Budget Committee, but not Operations, said he, too, has questions regarding any change.

“As of right now I’m waiting to hear the presentation from AMR. There are al ot of questions that need to be answered before I’m willing to make a decision. As for the next steps after the presentation, I assume it will be in Operations’ hands to discuss further,” he said.