'Blindsided' Augusta Fire Department holds off 'dangerous' ambulance provider vote

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, Thursday, November 1, 2012

AUGUSTA,Ga -- It is being called a life or death decision. The East Regional EMS Council attempted to throw water on a heated battle between the Augusta Fire Department and Gold Cross Ambulance Service.

"I've seen the way you do interviews Chris." said Gold Cross EMS CEO Vince Brogdon. "I am not going to interview with you."

Brogdon stormed out of a disappointing meeting. The company wrote a letter hoping to make the Augusta Fire Department answer to their private company, but it was nothing doing. The zoning commission decided to table the vote until February 2013.

"What do you make of it being tabled?" we asked Brogdon.

"That's fine. If that's what they want to do. That's why it was brought to the commission." said Brogdon as he shuffled into his jeep and slammed the door.

"I think they have just had a break down in communication." said Courtney Terwilliger with the zoning commission. "That happens."

Terwilliger and other commission members are being asked to make Gold Cross the primary zone provider.

"Then we have to give them these calls no matter who the city contracts with." said Augusta Fire Chief Chris James. "Basically, it would create a monopoly."

Gold Cross claims the Augusta Fire Department repeatedly failed to staff at least one of it's ambulances.

"The fire department was completely blindsided by this." said Dr. Phillip Coule who is medical director at the fire department. "They had not even been notified that this letter had been sent to the state until a week and a half or go."

Terwilliger says tabling the issue is the only fair option to allow cooler heads to prevail.

"In a perfect world I would like for these guys to sit down and see if they can't work it out." said Terwilliger. "We felt that Chief James with the Augusta Richmond County fire department had not been given adequate notice."

The decision to table the vote comes just one day after fire department leaders spoke out on our weekly radio segment on 96.3 KISS FM.

"What it means is less availability of ambulances," Dr. Coule said. "It is potentially dangerous."

The fire department is convinced the decision could mean the difference between life and death.

"It certainly has the potential to decrease the availability of ambulances." said Dr. Coule. "And if that's so, then that could create an issue that could cost someone their life."

The city law department says the commission did not follow their own guidelines. They were supposed to appoint a county representative to the zoning committee before any vote. That may have influenced their decision to postpone the vote. 911 director Dominic Nutter has been appointed to the committee.

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