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ONLY ON 3: Brunswick Co. footing bill to cover private ambulance company's service cuts

READ MORE: ONLY ON 3: Brunswick Co. footing bill to cover private ambulance company's service cuts
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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- Brunswick County is scrambling trying to figure out how to fill the gap left behind when a private ambulance company made big staff cuts this week. Amera-Tech gave the county little notice it was laying off EMTs, which left emergency services in a bind.

Amera-Tech responded to non-emergency calls transporting, on average, 7,400 patients a year in Brunswick County.

The company most recently made headlines in October, when one of its ambulance drivers was charged with running a red light and killing a 19-year-old woman.

Friday, the company's owner, Ervin Jacobs, called Brunswick County EMS Director Brian Watts.

"Basically he told me that they were going to need to be cutting back and starting monday morning would not be able to provide the non-emergency ambulance services that they had provided for so long," Watts said.

Watts knew Amera-Tech was having financial problems, but he didn't realize he would only be get 72 hours notice.

Amera-Tech is one of two private ambulance franchises in Brunswick County. Now that it is no longer offering medical transports, the county has had to step up and fill in the hole.

"We were able to, starting Monday morning, staff up some extra ambulances and put a process in place to take the calls and to prioritize the calls, dispatch the calls and actually do the transports," Watts said.

The county is using part time employees and paying overtime. It's a move that is affecting its budget.

"I wanted to do this as fiscally responsible as possible as I can, but at the same time it's a service that has to be provided, so we've got to be able to balance the service provided with the cost," Watts said.

The county is looking into a long term solution.

We called Jacobs and left several messages. He has not returned our call.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

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AmeraTech

Ok, I want to know more details regarding the rumor that AT is under federal investigation for Medicare fraud. Secondly, let's see how BCEMS will handle this. One would speculate that admin. will convince Commissioners this venture is profitable and ultimately tax payers will face the financial burden of this mess.

County EMS does not need to get involved...

If it's non-emergency transport, then EMS (EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES) does not need to be taxed with the burden. The county should be allowing competing ambulance services to operate, instead of requiring franchise agreements. When you put all your eggs in one basket and fail to plan, you can have problems such as this.

Help is avaiable if Brunswick County Admin and BCEMS would ok it

My heart goes out to the staff and customers of Amera-Tech. During these trying times it is hard to find jobs, especially those that are full time with health insurance being provided at no cost to the employee. The customers of Amera-Tech may get some help from Brunswick County EMS but it will probably be lacking in the personal touch that they are accustomed to. This is not a slur at BCEMS staff but as an emergency service provider they do not usually get to know their patients very much and with the extra work load they will be encouraged to handle calls as fast as possible. Non-emergency ambulance providers are usually able to take more time with patients with many becoming friends and almost family like due to the constant contact.

If the strain is to much for BCEMS, then they and county administrators need to allow another non-emergency ambulance company to fill the need. I know for a fact that a Paramedic level non-emergency ambulance service out of Columbus county has asked for and been denied a franchise in Brunswick County. They were told that there was not a need. It looks like there is one now since the extra work load of non-emergent calls have caused or could cause emergency crews to have extended response times or miss 911 calls completely.
If the service I know about was allowed to operate in Brunswick county those that have lost their jobs would be have a chance to regain employment quickly and BCEMS would not have to worry about the extra wear and tear on their equipment or personnel.

Everyone wants a quick response when they dial 911 for help and I for one feel that a 911 service should not tie up their trucks/personnel on a non-emergent transport that could be handled by another company.