Lauderdale County officials set to vote on future of Shoals Ambulance service

WAFF's Megan Plotka reporting
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 6:24 AM CDT
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FLORENCE, Ala. (WAFF) - Lauderdale County leaders will vote Monday on whether or not to renew the county’s contract with Shoals Ambulance service.

The contract ended earlier this year but it has been extended several times in 2022. Leaders are inching closer to making a final decision.

Area residents have raised concerns over the quality of service and long wait times. They say one of the biggest issues is the number of ambulances used to cover the response area.

The service uses five ambulances to cover over 700 square miles.

Lauderdale County Commission Chair Danny Pettus said in the past six months, there were several instances when there wasn’t a single ambulance available in times of an emergency. During those instances, an ambulance from another service like from Helen Keller Hospital will respond.

James Smith lives in Florence. His concern with the service was over long wait times. Smith recounted a time his mother-in-law was struggling with her C.O.P.D. She could barely walk or breathe, so an ambulance was called.

”The ambulance dispatchers called her back an hour later and wanted to know if she really needed an ambulance,” Smith said. “They didn’t have units. They had no units available. This is a person that’s suffocating, can’t breathe.”

Registered Nurse Chappel King says she feared for her dad’s life when he had a heart attack in 2015. He was picked up by Shoals Ambulance. She says she was scared after she found out what happened to him. She said his treatment was delayed because there wasn’t enough staffing.

“There was a delay of treatment in the emergency room because nobody went to the doctor when they got there and said ‘hey he’s having a heart attack and he needs help,’” King said. “So the treatment was drastically delayed.”

Shoals Ambulance released the following statement when asked about the above concerns:

Shoals Ambulance is proud to have served the people of Lauderdale County and the City of Florence with emergency and non-emergency ambulance service for more than a decade. In 2022, the Lauderdale County ambulance service contract was scheduled for a competitive procurement process on its regularly scheduled cycle. Shoals Ambulance is currently operating on contract extensions while the County completes that process.

Shoals Ambulance works closely with Lauderdale County and the City of Florence in regards to our service delivery.

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) regulates EMS certifications and scope of practice for all EMS professionals. Lauderdale County ambulances are staffed with certified EMS professionals to meet state requirements.

The Lauderdale County Commission will vote on whether or not to keep Shoals Ambulance on July 11 at 4:45.

The City of Florence unanimously voted to sign a contract with a different ambulance service, AMR Lifeguard, on July 7.

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