Gold Cross ending monthly ambulance contract with Augusta

As Central EMS hurriedly prepares to take over ambulance service in Augusta, the current provider is pulling out even before Central was planning to start.
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 12:04 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2023 at 3:01 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - As Central EMS hurriedly prepares to take over ambulance service in Augusta, the current provider is pulling out even before Central was planning to start.

Central had been seeing May 8 as its start date, but current provider Gold Cross just told the city it’s pulling out on April 21.

Central said Wednesday it’s up to the challenge and will take over on April 21.

Gold Cross said Wednesday it sent notice to the city to inform the mayor, interim city administrator, and city leaders that Gold Cross would be terminating its month-to-month agreement on that date.

The 30-day notice is required under the month-to-month contract Gold Cross is operating under.

Gold Cross has been providing ambulance service here for years but told the city a few months ago it needed higher subsidies to afford to stay. The city refused, and Gold Cross decided to pull out. State officials selected Central as the next ambulance provider, and Gold Cross went to a month-to-month contract during the transition.

City leaders sat down with Central leaders Wednesday as the two sides continue to iron out exactly how the transition will take place.

They walked through coordinating with the 911 center, fire department, field personnel, and more. All of these can be managed in some form by April 22 but the cost may affect how it’s done.

We caught up with Central Emergency Medical Service President Gary Coker about Gold Cross’ new departure time.

“I didn’t know until this morning, number one. Number two, did we have contingency plans in case something like this happened? Yes. Have we started readying our contingency plans today? Yes. Will we be ready? Yes. No citizen will go without an ambulance. We’ll be sure that we’ll be in place no matter what, whatever the start date is,” he said. “I assure you that we will make the mark, make the time, make the date.”

While sharing locations with the Augusta Fire Department for ambulances, Central EMS intends to have a headquarters in Augusta. However with the start date moved up, the company says it might be difficult to acquire a site by April 22.

“To house the ambulances, to build a maintenance center, a supply center, support, those types of things,” said Coker. “In our opinion, for it to go directly through the 911 and be dispatched directly to the ambulance, saves a bit of time. I’m going to say 60 to 90 seconds of time, and that sometimes is crucial.”

Augusta Fire Chief Antonio Burden released this map of 13 proposed EMS locations:

Proposed EMS map for Augusta
Proposed EMS map for Augusta(Contributed)

“With rising costs and after discussions with management within the company, we just felt it would no longer be beneficial to either party to continue the month-to-month contract with the city,” Gold Cross CEO Vince Brogdon said in a statement. “With the new company that was awarded the zone coming in, we will work hard to help with a smooth transition in any way we can. Please know that I care deeply for this community. As I grew up here, went to school here, and worked here in this community. I will always keep the door open to help our citizens in any way I can; even if I am not the zone provider.”

Gold Cross continues as the EMS provider in Columbia County and Jefferson County as well as offering backup and non-emergency service elsewhere, the company said.

“Let me assure you that Gold Cross isn’t going anywhere,” Brogdon said. “We are and will continue to be in this community! Providing quality service and playing our part in taking care of our citizens.”

Central has been fast-tracking its efforts to staff up.

As of earlier this week, Central was looking to fill 100 to 135 positions – up to 100 of them full-time. EMTs, paramedics, mechanics, and some in-office staff are all needed.

Coker said earlier this week: “I’m pleased with the progress that we’ve made on hiring, and I’m assured that we’ll be fully staffed and ready to go the first week of May.”

As a competitive edge, while operating next to Gold Cross, Central is offering matched or above-average incomes for their hires. Gold Cross pays employees $46,000 to $53,000 and paramedics about $66,000, according to Gold Cross Director of Business Development Mike Meyers.

The next subcommittee meeting is set for Tuesday when City Interim Administrator Takiyah Douse says she plans to set an initial draft contract.

“In knowing that we have options that’s definitely, definitely of value,” she said. “In light of new information that we’ve received in regards to the termination from Gold Cross, there is a need, an expedited need to move the schedule up.”