Will new contract bring better ambulance service to Augusta?

Published: May. 6, 2022 at 9:01 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We’re digging deeper into a new contract on the table between the city of Augusta and Gold Cross Emergency Medical Service.

Augusta Commission members want a new ambulance contract with Gold Cross that they hope will improve service and mend the relationship the city’s had with company for years.

“When we put more teeth into it,” a contract is legally binding, while the current memorandum of understanding is not, said Alvin Mason, Augusta Commission member for District 4.

The proposed new contract with Gold Cross makes the following list a requirement and not a request:

  • Eight ambulances for Augusta, and possibly more during peak times, all with GPS trackers.
  • Daily reporting of all calls and response times over 30 minutes.
  • Nearly a $1 million increase in the subsidy payment, which not everyone is on board with.

“We still have a number of complaints from the citizens about their arrival time and departure time and all of that, and if they cannot provide a better service, we don’t need to give them $1.5 million subsidy,” said Dennis Williams, August Commission member for District 2.

Right now, Augusta pays Gold Cross a $650,000 subsidy to cover the cost of patients who can’t pay the bill.

Those payment amounts have dropped year by year, by 64% from 2013 to 2021:

  • 2013: $1.8 million
  • 2015: $1.1 million
  • 2017: $1 million
  • 2021: $650,000
  • 2022 proposal: $1.5 million

But Gold Cross says the need for the subsidy has only increased.

The company says this year alone, more than 40% of riders in Richmond County cannot pay.

Inflation, supply costs, employee retention and gas prices are also challenges.

But some commissioners want to see all of the data that backs that up.

“That’s your problem. That’s your business. That’s not the city’s business to subsidize businesses that don’t succeed,” Williams said.

But is it really the cost of saving lives?

For comparison, Columbia County pays Gold Cross $850,000, and the majority of that county’s riders do pay.

But more money means higher performance expectations.

“So that they make a call, they know an ambulance is going to come,” Mason said.

On Tuesday, we’ll get our first look at the new contract specifications. If approved by the commission and signed off by both parties, it’ll go into place immediately.

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