WC/JC EMS offer aimed at helping Unicoi County start its own ambulance service

Sue Guinn Legg • May 13, 2019 at 9:14 PM

ERWIN — In its offer of a $218,000, one-year agreement to provide temporary ambulance service to Unicoi County, the Washington County/Johnson City Emergency Medical Service’s goal is is to help Unicoi County start its own service as quickly as possible.

In a question-and-answer session with Unicoi County officials on Monday, WC/JC EMS Executive Director Dan Wheeley said, “From our side of it, our coming here is a stop-gap measure for you starting your own service” and that his agency will be disappointed if in six months Unicoi County says, “thanks anyway,” and returns to a contracted service.

“Our goal is to get you set up and going as soon as we can,” Wheeley said.

Wheely said a locally controlled service will help Unicoi County and all other ambulance services in the region by improving its retention of “dedicated” first responders who will have the assurance of lasting jobs rather than a three- or four-year contract.

Wheeley said the numbers set out in the temporary agreement do not include the lease of a station, but do include Unicoi County’s lease of Washington County ambulances. He said his agency would like to see Unicoi County use its grant funding to purchase its own ambulances as soon as possible to reduce that cost.

Unicoi County Mayor Garland Evely said Christian Care Center of Unicoi County has space available for lease that could be used to house a station for the WC/JC EMS service here. Wheeley and several of the commissioners toured the property adjacent to the former Unicoi County Memorial Hospital following Monday’s meeting.

According to Wheeley, the $218,000 cost of the agreement is projected to be Unicoi County’s approximate annual operating cost going forward, with some variables related to changes in Medicaid reimbursements.

Of that $218,000, he said, WC/JC EMS will need $100,000 up front for start-up expenses and that Unicoi County will see very little in revenue for the first several months.

After three months, Wheeley said, Unicoi County should have a good idea of what its revenues and costs will be.

On staffing, Wheeley said he would like to meet with the MedicOne staff as soon as possible and his agency will designate a supervisor for Unicoi County who may or may not be a current MedicOne employee.

Wheely and Unicoi County Commissioner and Ambulance Committee Chairman John Mosley both indicated the July 1 start of a new budget year would be the preferred start date for the temporary service agreement.

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