Ozark EMS Begins Coverage of South Dale County Municipalities

By Christina Faulkner

As South Dale EMS closed their doors Saturday evening at 7 p.m., citizens in five southern Dale County municipalities need not be concerned which emergency medical services provider will answer the call when the need arises. Ozark EMS has contracted with the five municipalities in the south end of the county to provide ambulatory services to their citizenry taking the first call at 7:10 p.m. Saturday, January 14.

According to Ozark Mayor Mark Blankenship, the cities of Grimes, Napier Field, Midland City, Newton, and Pinckard have all agreed to allow Ozark EMS to provide ambulance services for the next year to their municipalities. Larger municipalities like Midland City and Newton will pay the city $11,000 annually for the service. Grimes and Napier Field will split this amount, and each pay $5,500 annually. Pinckard has a separate agreement exchanging parking and housing the ambulance and its crew for EMS services. Signing a contract with the City of Ozark, each of the municipalities have agreed to pay a supplemental fee to cover costs not covered by insurance or other revenue. Additionally, Ozark EMS will collect the EMS tag fee distributions for those municipalities, roughly 23% of what is collected.

Blankenship stated the addition of these areas will add approximately 888 calls annually to Ozark EMS. Ozark EMS currently has five ambulances, one on order, and another that can be delivered in March if ordered today. Ozark Department of Public Safety and Ozark EMS is currently hiring from the pool of former South Dale EMS personnel that meet Ozark EMS requirements ensuring the department has the manpower to handle the additional calls.

South Dale EMS discovered they were in financial trouble last year when former Newton Mayor, Bill Pruitt took the reins as the new Board Chair discovered the emergency medical services provider was several thousand dollars in debt. While the EMS provider is in a better position financially than what it was at the beginning of the year, it has struggled to “catch up” on the debt left by previous administrators. Therefore, Pruitt says the severity of the financial situation made the decision to shut down the best decision.

Talks between the City of Ozark and the five municipalities have been in the process for some time as South Dale EMS Board of Directors, the mayors of each of the municipalities, and Blankenship looked for a solution to the issue of ensuring emergency medical services to the residents in the south end of the county.

Ozark EMS will not receive funds from the American Rescue Plan Act disbursement the county planned for EMS providers because city officials do not agree with the disbursement formula. By completing the documentation and becoming eligible to receive the funding providers must sign an agreement stating they are in agreement with the disbursement formula. Currently the county is disbursing funds based on the square miles served outside municipal police jurisdictions and city limits. This formula awards Echo EMS, which is located in an unincorporated area of Dale County and services approximately 164 square miles, almost $1.2 million. Daleville EMS will receive $86,000 and Ariton will receive $322,875. South Dale EMS was eligible for $57,400 and Ozark EMS would have been eligible for just $38,875.

Blankenship says he does not agree with the formula because Ozark is the largest EMS provider in the county, making about 70-75% of all the runs in the county. With the addition of the municipalities in the south end of the county, Blankenship expects Ozark EMS to pick up between 10-15% of the county’s runs, bringing the total to 80-85%.

Blankenship has long advocated for a county-wide EMS service and, at a recent city council meeting, said he’d like to see one EMS service in the part of the county not serviced by Daleville EMS. For the time being, Blankenship says Ozark EMS and Echo EMS will work together to support one another and ensure coverage throughout their respective coverage areas.

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