State recommends new ambulance provider for Augusta

Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 11:13 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 15, 2023 at 5:18 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We learn more about the Augusta ambulance service provider decision, as leaders meet again on Wednesday.

According to officials, three proposals were introduced by AmeriMed, Gold Cross, and Central EMS during the meeting.

As of 1:17 p.m., Central EMS scored highest and will be presented for the recommendation on Monday.


During the meeting, several commissioners and the mayor voiced their concerns and opinions about how to decide on an ambulance service provider.

Mayor Garnett Johnson believes the county must pay for the provider, not the state. He thinks the department should hire a consultant. Johnson states they will meet back soon because this issue needs to be resolved. After all, it’s a heavily contested issue, and finding a solution this way may not work.

Johnson says, “I’m just excited that at least we now have a path forward and that the EMS Council has recommended the Central EMS service to be our zone provider. So I’m excited about having a conversation with my colleagues on what the next steps are how we move forward, so we can provide adequate service to our citizens of Augusta-Richmond County.”

Gary Coker, president of Central EMS, says, “We’re negotiating to get what’s the best annual service for the citizens to work for the county. Government will make sure it’s economical for them, but also to make sure that we’ve got enough to provide a good ambulance services.

Coker stated during the meeting that he can count the number of complaints on his hands, of only nine and a half fingers, he was proud of it.

Coker says, “It takes a certain amount of money to do that, so we want to make sure that we can meet our budget. That’s the balance that we have to meet and once we meet that, the ambulance service and the response times from the citizens will be what it needs to be.”

Central EMS started in 1983 and has served many cities throughout Georgia, and it operates a 911 call center in Forsyth County which is what Augusta is looking to do.

“The 911 Center will communicate directly to our ambulances, which are a little bit of a change from the way it is now. Second, the way that we do our data and we input our data for medical records and for billing, we have a sophisticated computer system that has in and is automated and runs very smoothly. So we’ll be putting all of that,” Coker says.

Central EMS claims it has the same area dynamic as Richmond County and has less than eight-minute response times.

Coker states, “We think that the dispatch center 911 center ship didn’t directly dispatch the ambulance. Therefore they’ll have the response times. We’ll work on those to make sure those reports will do well. And that’s what we’re negotiating with county, what type of reports we need. They will be done on a regular basis. Response time would be one budget to another, you know, the number of ambulances, whatever those things are an ambulance service. Would be transparent.”

Central EMS states it can be trusted to supply and start service overnight if needed. Central EMS also has its ambulance manufacturer to expedite orders of eight, 24-hour cars, six peak-time cars, and three QRCS Continue to train staff employees through different schools it has.

Central EMS calls the commission to give money and blames the commission for Gold Cross’s faults.

Central EMS also stated it’s not interested if the commission isn’t wanting to give a quality service.

820 employees in Georgia admit the problem of the shortage in the industry.

Central EMS lastly states it’s looking to copy the system in Forsyth County here and keep 911 ambulances separate from other ambulances. The provider states, if selected, Central EMS will provide the best service for citizens.

“We began in 1983. And I’m the founder and that was the company of forty years ago, I guess. And so we were one of the largest ambulance services in the state. We joined with a partner of Kearney ambulance, and we have a very good annual net worth. That includes national EMS around Athens and Rockdale County. That includes in Cobb County Puckett EMS. So we’re part of that team and that makes us do that gives us a lot of horsepower when we get that many services and that type of company behind us,” Coker says.

During the meeting, each service provider presented a proposal, which created responses from commissioners and leaders.

Mayor Johnson says he’s embarrassed that the Department of Public Health has to decide, and that he supports Gold Cross but doesn’t have a favorite. He believes that multiple attempts to bankrupt the company and wants more time to own the zone so the city is accountable not a particular company.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle questions why Augusta has this issue and wants no response times in the contract. He wants a local company and more structure within the contract.

Commissioner Brandon Garnett says he is tired of dealing with this for the last seven years and thinks there will be repercussions for no decision as of yet. He thinks the commission has failed the people, but at the end of the day, they have to find a solution to move forward.

Commissioner Bobby Williams calls out Gold Cross for being willing to work with whoever is selected but wants better for the citizens.

Chief Steven Vincent says to look at call volumes compared to complaints in reference to Gold Cross services.

Gold Cross claimed it knows what Augusta needs because its has been doing it for 17 years. Gold Cross stated the proposal from 2013 doesn’t meet today’s current environment and will order all new ambulances.

Gold Cross believes it should’ve been awarded the request for proposal officially protested the bid, because if properly scored it should’ve been awarded month to month, and doesn’t have an end date. It proposed to provide eight dedicated ambulances and plans to fluctuate if needed.

Gold Cross also claimed if it were to receive more money, it will be able to meet the zone’s needs.

Gold Cross was questioned about its response times and if no ambulance ever shows up, no clear answer was given by Gold Cross.

Many concerns with the current state of Gold Cross and how it’s served the county in the past. Some brought up examples and wanted clarification for problems in past and answers for the future.

AmeriMed proposed 10 ambulances a day, eight ambulances at night, and three QRVs staffed and ready 24/7 60-90 days until fully operational.