UPDATE: Decatur’s First Response Ambulance Service To Shut Down
First Response ambulance responds to an emergency call recently in Decatur. (Photo by Al Whitaker, WHNT News 19)
DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) – First Response Ambulance Service has ceased operations in the City of Decatur. An employee with the company confirms First Response is no longer answering calls in the city. They are, however, responding to non-emergency transfers that originate outside of the city limits, the employee said. Two First Responder ambulances were observed this morning carrying patients to a Decatur dialysis clinic.
Decatur City Attorney Herman Marks tells WHNT News 19 that they have received assurances from DEMSI that adequate equipment and personnel will be available to respond to ambulance calls in Decatur.
Marks says the move was necessary to comply with a court order.
“We are working through the process. In the meantime, the city will be adequately covered,” Marks said. He declined an on-camera interview to explain how the city will be adequately covered with the loss of one of two ambulance services.
Late Monday, Morgan County Circuit Court Judge Sherrie Paler ruled in response to a petition filed this summer by Decatur Emergency Medical Services, Inc., or DEMSI, who has operated an ambulance service in Decatur for approximately 17 years. The petition challenged the city license granted to Healthcare Investment Group, Inc., to operate First Response Ambulance Service in Decatur.
Paler ruled the city had not followed its own regulations in accepting HGI’s application and therefore ruled their license invalid. Judge Paler declined to discuss the ruling late yesterday.
Contacted last night, Decatur Fire Battalion Chief Darwin Clark said First Response would not shut down before today’s meeting, and that the “public’s safety would not be compromised” by the ruling.
City officials met behind closed doors this morning to discuss the situation. Marks said the group was not covered by Alabama’s Open Meetings Law and reporters were not allowed to sit in on the conversation. During a break, Marks answered few questions saying none of the other attendees would make any comments to the news media. He also said the Decatur Fire Department, which has a number of Emergency Medical Technicians on staff and responds to most emergency medical calls in the city, would be the safety net until the issue is completely resolved.
Chief Clark said it was difficult to comment on the matter because of the litigation.
WHNT News 19 is actively pursuing the story and will provide updates as they become available.