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Central EMS reviews first year of service

After working together for a year, Forsyth County officials recently heard an update on the county’s ambulance service.

Representatives with Roswell-based Central Emergency Medical Services spoke to county commissioners during a work session on Tuesday.

Central took over ambulance service in January 2016 after Advance Ambulance, the county’s previous ambulance provider since 2008, shut down service due to financial issues.

“Our first year, our goals were to build local partners, streamline emergency service, increase the training, introduce technologies, improve data collection and support our local businesses,” Central EMS President Gary Coker said.

Central became an option after the previous company halted services due to financial issues and having billing software and computers seized by investigators after a warrant was executed by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.

Chairman Todd Levent, of District 3, said in the meeting that nothing was found, the items were returned and the office apologized.

Coker said there was a quick turnaround for the original agreement but thanked County Manager Doug Derrer, the fire department and the E-911 department.

“We had 17 hours, I believe it was, from the time that we started until the time we were operational,” he said. “We learned we were going to start operations one afternoon [and] we had to start it by 9 a.m. the next morning.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a transition of as many ambulances as you have here to be accomplished in that short a period of time.”

Central employs about 90 first responders in Forsyth County and has reduced average response times to 6-minutes-20-seconds and has a turnaround at the hospital of less than 20 minutes.

“How do we judge an ambulance service? You judge us on our reputation and you judge us on our response times,” Coker said. “Certainly there’s other factors — what type of equipment, what type of training — but response times, I think, are the key to any ambulance service.”

The response time is among the factors the company plans to improve on this year.

“Obviously, we’ll want to maintain the same high system performance,” said Glenn Leland, with Central. “We have an annual training calendar, so we make sure skills of people are continuing to be strong and get there on time, and we’re deploying some new technology as well in 2017.”

As there had been financial issues with the previous provider, commissioners also asked about the rate that county residents pay their bills.

An official with Central said about 83 percent pay their bills — the county subsidizes the rest.

Coker said Medicare, Medicaid, Forsyth being a large county and dealing with non-insured patients is considered in the subsidies but that

Central is larger than the previous company and more equipped to deal with those issues.

“We’re a much larger organization and we are focused on the collection aspect,” Coker said.

No action was taken at the meeting, which was for information only. The county will choose whether to stick with Central or choose another company at the end of the year.