Greene County is going ahead with building its own emergency medical service (EMS) for the same cost in the fiscal year 2021 budget as the contract with the University of Virginia Health System’s Medic 5, the Greene County Board of Supervisors learned May 12.
The UVA health system notified Greene County on April 14 that it’s severing the contract that has been in place since 2011 to provide emergency response services in the county effective Oct. 14.
Greene County Emergency Services Manager Melissa Meador told the supervisors the cost for Medic 5 to operate four units 24-hours-a-day is about $1.1 million annually.
“The contract has been terminated, so what do we do at this point?” Meador said. “The first option is to do nothing. EMS is not mandated in the code of Virginia. However, EMS is an expected service in Greene County so doing nothing, in my opinion, is not truly an option for us.”
A second option is putting out another request for proposals (RFP) to run the EMS, but the county put one out over the winter with no results. Meador said with time constraints to get the department operational before the end of the contract, it isn’t feasible and she doesn’t think the county would find a contract for less than they are already paying. She said the county looked into creating a regional squad with Madison County, but the Madison Board of Supervisors declined to look into it.
“The next option is for a Greene County EMS department and I don’t really see any disadvantages with this particular option,” she said. “This is going to allow us to maintain positive control over accountability, supervision and overall management of the department.”
Meador said a lot of infrastructure is in place, including an agreement with the Greene County Volunteer Rescue Squad for utilization of its building and equipment and there is already an EMS license.
“We want Greene County to have the best EMS and we want our citizens to have the best possible service and I think that we can accomplish that with our own department,” she said.
Meador said the department would be staffed with 15 employees, but there is an expectation that the department will grow in the future.
“Things are as tight as I think they can be; I don’t see any way that we could decrease at this point,” Meador told the supervisors. “It does still include the EMS supervisor position and if that position needed to work shifts, it can cover shifts for call outs or vacations. I’ve let Mr. Taylor know that all my certifications through the commonwealth of Virginia are valid so if I need to run an ambulance that is something we can pull from, as well.”
At-Large Supervisor Dale Herring told the board he agrees that the do-nothing option is not acceptable to him.
Ruckersville Supervisor Davis Lamb asked how the department has done with its ambulance recovery billing.
“I believe our recovery rate is running about 60% now … that puts us around $350,000 a year,” Meador said.
“Are you confident you can find 14 qualified individuals in the next 155 days?” Board Chair Bill Martin, Stanardsville, asked.
“I’ve been asked that question quite a few times recently and I am confident that we will find efficient and effective members who want to join our team,” Meador said. “I am confident in that.”
Monroe Supervisor Steve Bowman said he thinks the only good option for the county is moving forward with its own EMS department.
“I give my compliments, Ms. Meador, to you for putting this together,” Bowman said.
Bowman made a motion to move forward to form the Greene County Emergency Medical Services Department. Herring seconded and it was approved unanimously.
In late 2019, the county initiated a free fire and EMS study by the Virginia Fire Services Board to assess effectiveness of current services, which kicked off on Jan. 27. All three fire departments in Greene County—Ruckersville, Stanardsville and Dyke —are 100% volunteer based.
The county has not yet received the study back from that board.