During its regular schedule meeting on Tuesday, July 20, Bessemer City Council approved a six-month contract with Shoals Ambulance that would centralize the 9-1-1 response into one ambulance service provider ensuring advanced life support coverage to the city 24-hours a day, seven days a week. The agreement has the option to be extended for an additional six month as the city investigates and develops a permanent EMS system design.
Shoals Ambulance will be sole ambulance response to all 911 calls in the city. The city was previously served with a rotation of ambulance service providers. Consolidation to a single ambulance service partner and single contract will create better accountability for response and improve the overall economics of the EMS system by concentrating the volume and associated revenue into a single provider.
Shoals Ambulance will station at least one advanced life support (ALS) ambulance in the city around-the-clock and will provide additional support based on 9-1-1 call demand. Each ALS ambulance will be staffed with one emergency medical technician and one paramedic.
The City also is providing funding to the transportation of city residents who are uninsured and do not have the financial means to pay their bill.
“Shoals Ambulance is proud to have been selected by the City of Bessemer as their partner to ensure high-quality, prompt ambulance service to the city,” said Vice President of Operations Eric Messer. “We applaud the City for proactively recognizing the need to stabilize the EMS system and taking the necessary next steps to build a system that will ensure long-term sustainability in their EMS system. We look forward to working with the city over the next six to 12 months serving the community.”
Jefferson County, the state of Alabama and throughout the national, EMS providers are experiencing crisis-level staffing shortage that stem from the reimbursement from state and federal programs that is often significantly below costs. Alabama has some of the lowest state Medicaid reimbursement programs in the country.
“With reimbursement often significantly below cost, it is challenging to pay EMTs and paramedics wages that match the skill and dedication that they bring to serving their community without finding additional methods of funding for the EMS system,” said Messer. “Reimbursement and staffing challenges in EMS are problems that goes back more than a decade and affect every type of EMS provider, including private and government providers. The pandemic was an inflection point that brought these issues to a critical point in many areas.”
Jefferson County recently hired national EMS expert consultant, Fitch and Associates, to provide an assessment of the county’s system and offer potential solutions for the county. The study will be completed in six to eight months.
Founded in 2012, Shoals Ambulance is the 9-1-1 provider to Lauderdale County and the City of Florence in Northwest Alabama. In 2014, Shoals Ambulance joined the Priority Ambulance family of companies when Gibson founded the national ambulance company. Shoals Ambulance also provides interfacility and 9-1-1 service to the greater Birmingham area.