Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.

County Commission News

County Commission grants ambulance monopoly. Eliminates competition again

Last Thursday night, January 20th, Columbia County’s legendary good ole boys continued a tradition by awarding another monopoly to Century Ambulance. The Commissioners' mouths were zipped tight when this item came up for a vote. Once again, the Commission inflated the cost of ambulance service for anyone in Columbia County, giving them no choice but to use Century Ambulance for transport. A few months ago, Century Ambulance gave the County a gift worth, according to the County, $17,586.

For years, Century Ambulance has been the only private ambulance service that has been granted permission to operate in Columbia County. Every time another private ambulance service has requested permission to operate, they have been turned down and blown out.

A little history

In 2004, Columbia County decided not to privatize EMS ambulance services, yet they gave Century Ambulance permission to operate transport, instead of providing that service themselves. No reason was given why the county could not provide transport, as is done in other counties.

Eliminating competition the Columbia County way

In 2008, for the first time in years, a company besides Century, Dial A Nurse, applied for permission to operate ambulances in Columbia County. In this instance, County Attorney Marlin Feagle blew them out of the water. The County's minutes put it this way:

Attorney Feagle said that contact has been made with Lake City Medical Center, V.A. Hospital, and the Lake Shore Hospital Authority regarding this request and all have expressed that they are satisfied with the services being provided by Century Ambulance Service and that there is no backlog of cases/patients that aren’t being taken care of. Attorney Feagle said that staff is recommending denial until a need for this service is revealed.

A few years ago Lowes was the only big box home outlet in the county, then, Home Depot decided they wanted to build a similar store. It is unclear why Mr. Feagle and the county staff didn’t ask Lowes and their customers if they wanted Home Depot to open.

Also in 2008, Liberty Ambulance Service began its quest for permission to operate in Columbia County. In a letter to the County Commission, dated November 3, 2008, Liberty said that Shands Lake Shore Hospital had approached them to provide “inter-facility services.”

In 2009, Liberty Ambulance applied for permission to operate in Columbia County. Liberty Ambulance is a well-established company.

Once again history repeated itself. This time County Manager Dale Williams, with a little help from the now retired, Commissioner Dewey Weaver, played tag team. CM Williams told the board, "... it is the opinion of staff that there is no need for another service providing inter-facility transports within Columbia County." Commissioner Weaver then encouraged Liberty to move forward and seek a contract with the Lake City Medical Center."

Good bye Liberty.

Columbia County was not through

In June of 2010, Rapid Patient Mobilization ("RPM") made a request to provide Critical Care ALS Inter-facility transport in the County. RPM told the Commission that their organization has medical oversight in many areas including a Board Certified Emergency Medicine/Trauma/ Tactical MD, Board Certified Pediatric MD, Master Physical Therapist and a Board certified Respiratory Therapist.

RPM told the Observer that they were certified and going to provide a level of care in Columbia County comparable to that of Air Medical Transport.

During the June 2010 meeting, CM Williams said the County allows the hospitals to choose who the County will allow to operate inside the County limits. According to the County Manager, the staff "touched base" with both Shands and the Lake City Medical Center and neither hospital was requesting this service.

Good bye RPM.

RPM did not return phone calls for comment.

The County does not care that it is the patient who pays for the ambulance ride and not the hospital.

The legendary good ole boys of Columbia County never fail to disappoint when it comes transparency and fighting for the best deal for the working families of the County.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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