Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper


Columbia County EMS:
Time to stop reinventing the wheel

Until you know all the facts and have a little knowledge about the industry then the privatization Columbia County's EMS may look like a great deal for the county.  What the press knows and reports and what the commissioners and county administration think they know isn't so black and white. It is true that EMS ran at a 1.2 million dollar deficit. But the question you should be asking is – Why?

The private company doesn't possess some secret knowledge of the industry that the county EMS administration didn't possess.  The fact is Columbia County had not adjusted billing rates in years. Unlike the private service, the county was unwilling to do the hospital transfers, which would have generated revenue and allowed for additional units.  Had the county listened to its EMS employees and made the changes they suggested, which are the exact same changes the private company immediately implemented, then the 1.2 million dollar deficit would have not only have been erased, but revenue could have been generated by EMS.

Most counties as large as Columbia County take advantage of the EMS revenue by merging with their fire departments. Clay County, Alachua County, ST Johns County, Leon County and Nassau County to name a few, figured this out a long time ago.

Columbia County, before privatization, invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a merge with fire before it was abandoned for privatization. Had the merger been realized, it would have paid off in revenue to offset the cost of fire protection for years to come.

The private company is here because there is profit to be made. The private company is doing the exact same things to make that profit that the EMS employees suggested the county do.  I'm not criticizing them, as the motive of all business is to make a profit.

As we continue to grow and the cost of fire protection continues to increase, we really need to look at what all our neighboring counties figured out when they were reaching our size and bring EMS and its revenue generating potential into the fire service. This would decrease our ISO rating resulting in cheaper insurance for business and decrease the cost of the fire service to taxpayers.

There is a reason why you rarely see privatization of EMS in larger counties. We are not a small county anymore.

It's time to stop reinventing the wheel.


About Toby Witt

Photo: Columbia County Observer; all rights reserved

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

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

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.