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Supervisors add private local ambulance service in Lafayette County

In order to reduce response times to Lafayette County citizens needing an ambulance, the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors approved adding a private medical company to the county’s 911 rotation.

Jim Cox, legal counsel for Priority Medical Transportation, made a presentation before the board during its regular Monday meeting.

Cox said he’s been in talks with county leaders for about 18 months on adding Priority to the 911 system. He said Priority has two Advanced Life Support ambulances staffed with one EMT and one paramedic immediately available to go into service. Priority Medical is located on West Oxford Loop and has been providing non-emergency transportation and wheelchair van transportation.

Currently, Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi operates the only emergency ALS ambulances in Lafayette County.

Oxford and Lafayette County leaders have both expressed concern over long response times and the fact that there are only two emergency ambulances available at any given time.

When Baptist bought out of its lease from the city and county in 2012 so it could build a new, bigger hospital, County Attorney David O’Donnell said there a clause in the sale agreement that said Baptist would provide the same level of ambulance service; however, county leaders said with the rise in population warrants additional ambulances.

“There is nothing (in the agreement) prohibiting us from adding additional service,” said County Attorney David O’Donnell Monday.

Cox said his company has studied ambulance response times in the county for 24 months.

“We can’t solve the problem,” he said. “But we can help alleviate the problem.”

Priority’s CEO David Grayson said the two ambulances would service call of Lafayette County, including inside Oxford city limits.

Cox requested Priority be added to the 911 system on a one-to-one rotation with Baptist.

“We both have two units in Lafayette County,” Cox said.

Dispatchers would dispatch Baptist for one call, then dispatch Priority for the next 911 medical call.

Cox said Priority will soon be providing service to Marshall and Benton counties.

“We’re buying an additional four units,” he said. “If the situation in Oxford warrants it, and between Baptist and us there are no ambulances available, we’ll have four just a bit north that we can radio up to and send one to Oxford.”

Cox said he’d like to have future discussions with the supervisors on adding an ambulance to the fire station in Abbeville that could serve Abbeville and Harmontown.

“We could reduce response time to Harmontown by 22 minutes,” he said.

Patients being provided transport to the emergency room by Priority would be billed the same as Baptist, as most of the rates are structured through federal mandates and Medicare.

“If they have insurance, we bill the insurance,” he said. “If they have no means of payment, then that’s a cost we absorb.”

Supervisor David Rikard asked Cox if Priority has had any conversations with Baptist officials.

“No, it’s not their decision,” he replied. “It’s your decision.”

Never enough coverage

Board President Jeff Busby said even if Baptist does eventually add another ambulance, he feels there could never be enough coverage.

“The more protection we can offer the better,” Busby said. “Our citizens deserve the best service that can be provided.”

The board approved adding Priority to the 911 ambulance dispatch rotation contingent on Priority working with Lafayette County Dispatch to get the details worked out and a radio set up in dispatch so 911 operators can dispatch Priority’s ambulances.

Baptist CEO and Administrator Bill Henning said Baptist looks forward to working with Priority to service the needs of Lafayette County residents.

“We are pleased to have additional resources available to our community,” Henning said Monday.