Supervisors hold emergency meeting

Published 7:25 pm Friday, January 25, 2008

The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors held an emergency meeting Thursday morning to discuss the loss of ambulance service from Emergystat.

District I Supervisor and Board President Anthony Hales told the crowd in the meeting room that Emergystat had gone out of business as of midnight Wednesday night, and was no longer providing ambulance service to the county. Hales said the board held an emergency meeting Wednesday evening with AAA Ambulance, ASAP Ambulance and American Medical Response Ambulance services and had formed an agreement for AMR to provide temporary ambulance services at no cost to the county under a local declaration of emergency, but no contract has been signed.

“The only warning we had whatsoever was a renter of property who had been renting to Emergystat had come to me last week and said he had trouble cashing checks (from Emergystat)… Other than that, we have not heard anything from Emergystat,” Hales said.

Hales said he would like to see the county work with the cities of Picayune and Poplarville and choose one representative who could choose ambulance services for the entire county, rather than each entity choosing its service separately.

District V Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith said city representatives were in Jackson this week, but plans were being made to work with the cities when they return next week.

District III Supervisor Hudson Holliday recommended that the board also get recommendations from first responders as to an ambulance service provider in the county.

“I think it would be better to get their input because they’re the ones that are out there all the time,” Holliday said.

District IV Supervisor Patrick Lee said he is already in the process of making contacts with volunteer fire departments and will make all efforts to keep the departments involved in the decision-making process.

Board attorney Joe Montgomery requested the board go into executive session so he could provide the board with legal advice concerning the contract the county had with Emergystat.

After the board returned from executive session, Montgomery recommended the board entertain a motion stating that, “the board has determined as matter of fact that certain actions on the part of Emergystat created an emergency situation within the county to which they were not able to respond… As matter of fact that certain financial difficulties are interfering with their ability to conduct business within the county and that breached their contract (with the county) because they were not able to provide services, and their employees were advised to stop answering calls at midnight… As matter of fact that Emergystat advised they would not respond to any request for dispatch and failed to provide ambulance services as provided for by their contract… County officials were not permitted to talk with Emergystat executives who could advise the county what was going on, and it was stated on the news that Emergystat had ceased operations due to bankruptcy, since the county has the right to terminate the contract, they will terminate subject to approval of necessary bankruptcy court if applicable.”

The board passed the motion unanimously.

Smith also requested the board fill out a resolution request to the governor to proclaim a state of emergency for Pearl River County due to the ambulance crisis. The board voted unanimously to send the request.

After business has been completed, the board opened the floor to concerned citizens.

Rebecca Barnes, a Poplarville citizen, said she for one was glad Emergystat was gone, because she had a family member pass away under the care of Emergystat and knew of several others who also had the same problem.

“I think this is actually going to be a blessing in disguise, because we had another two years on our contract with Emergystat. Right now, we have better coverage than we did two days ago,” Lee said.

“We went from two ambulances in the county last night to 12 this morning,” said County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin.

Barnes asked if the temporary service with AMR would affect future contracts with other ambulance services, and Lee said it would not.

“If we get in a situation where we need more help, AAA and ASAP have also made promises that they will be there to help us out… It might be as long as two weeks before a final decision is made, but AMR has said they will stay as long as they are needed,” Lee said.

The board recessed until Monday at 5 p.m., when board members will meet with officials from the cities of Picayune and Poplarville at the boardroom in Poplarville.