County contracts with Baptist for ambulance service

Published 12:41 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Lafayette County Board of Supervisors has granted Baptist Ambulance of Baptist Memorial Hospital North Mississippi priority on all 911 calls to help lessen response times and address increasing emergency needs in the community.

Private company CareMed EMS and Baptist Ambulance had split priority over 911 calls and took charge for responses free of charge to Lafayette County, but Baptist’s updated proposal will give them full priority.

CareMed will still conduct private transports.

Lafayette County Board President Mike Roberts said Baptist’s Emergency Medical Response plan is an important step in helping the entire community and taking some burdens off the county and state services. 

“Every party has the same goal in mind and that is to serve our citizens better with 911 calls and response times,” said Roberts. “Between this board, the sheriff, Priority and a lot of players, Baptist has presented an updated business model that shows Baptist’s commitment and priority to this county.”

Baptist has agreed with the county to provide three ambulances for 24 hours for the entire week and another three ambulances working 24 hours Monday through Friday in exchange for 100% priority over 911 calls. Operations will work within the city and the county.

In addition, an Advanced Life Support supervisor fly car will be able to respond to emergency calls as well and Baptist will provide a vehicle tracker that will allow 911 dispatchers to track all ambulance units in real time and programs to update the 911 system.

According to Baptist Ambulance Vice President of Operations Eric Messer, the company will hire at least 30 medical employees to man these vehicles and respond to calls. Messer noted that the medical staffing shortage was difficult, but Baptist was going to see this proposal through.

“On Friday, we hired six basics and that’s going to be for the hospital and we’re really going to try to make those six ambulances work for 911,” he said. “This is based on the numbers we got because we may end up with eight ambulances. You just don’t know.”

Messer said Baptist would be willing to hire part-time county and city firefighters as well.

The service will run reports every two weeks, investigate what area produces  the most number of calls and decide where in the county to station an ambulance facility.

“I can’t run the county from the hospital,” said Messer. “That just doesn’t work. So we’re going to put an outlying building where the calls are.”

Baptist will issue a $50,000 annual stipend to hire a Medical Director who could conduct the  operation, lead medical responders and investigate any issues regarding Lafayette County’s emergency services. According to Roberts, the director will also work as a liaison between the service and Lafayette County so operations can maintain an air of transparency.

To monitor operations further and keep that air of transparency, Baptist Ambulance, Lafayette County and the city of Oxford will create a committee that will keep up to date on the service’s performance and response times. Members of the committee will be chosen in January 2022.

The board’s decision was to take place in January, but they decided to approve the proposal as soon as possible to give Priority as much time as possible. The model is to be in place by January 31, 2022.