DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) – Decatur EMS Inc. (DEMSI) crews parked their ambulances Friday night and saying they would not work until they are paid, according to several reports from inside the organization.
Sources tell WHNT News 19 that the crews logged off their Mobile Data Terminals, which effectively took the first ambulance “off the grid” for area 9-1-1 dispatchers beginning at approximately 5:30 Friday afternoon. By 6:00 P.M., the company’s other two ambulances had also logged off and were out of service.
Decatur Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Ted McKelvey, who also serves as the city’s EMS Coordinator, confirms he was notified by 9-1-1 dispatchers just before 6 P.M. Friday night that there were “some personnel issues” at DEMSI and that the company was no longer answering calls. McKelvey tells WHNT News 19 that he immediately took steps to make certain Decatur had adequate EMS service available.
“It’s important for people not to worry about the availability of emergency medical care,” McKelvey said. He added he had contacted First Response Ambulance Service and that they were staffing additional vehicles to cover the city. He says there has been no lapse in EMS coverage.
The work stoppage comes in the wake of a WHNT News 19 report last month that highlighted past bounced and late paychecks and other money and performance problems.
DEMSI owner Roger Stanmore has reportedly told employees there is no money in the bank to pay them and says they can’t expect to be paid until Monday. WHNT News 19 made several attempts to contact Stanmore but those phone calls have not been returned.
DEMSI is one of two EMS services currently operating inside the city.
An operations manager at First Response, the other EMS company in Decatur, confirms they are staffing a number of additional crews Friday night because of the surprise work stoppage. Those officials vow EMS services will be covered in Decatur until this situation is resolved and that people should not worry about having an ambulance respond if they need one.
Last month, DEMSI representatives were called before Decatur’s Emergency Medical Services Committee to explain why they had not been in compliance with city ordinances requiring a set number of ambulance vehicles and crews to be available at any given time. An attorney for the company, Barney Loveless, admitted the company had fallen short of those requirements for a brief period of time last October. Loveless would not respond to questions regarding employee’s paychecks. The committee took no action against the company.
When asked about the issue of late and bounced paychecks, McKelvey told WHNT News 19 in January that any issue that affected patient care would come under the jurisdiction of the EMS Committee. He said at that time, however, that no formal complaint had been filed to his knowledge.
Contacted by telephone at home Friday evening, McKelvey said he could neither confirm nor deny that a complaint about pay issues had been filed with the EMS Committee. He said if such a complaint did exist, it would remain under investigation until such time as a public comment could be made.
McKelvey, who says two DEMSI ambulances were back on-line and available to answer calls by 8:30 P.M., says the city is on-top of the situation and stresses Decatur has full EMS coverage. He says the other members of the committee have been notified about the situation and will discuss the issue with the city’s legal department next week to see what, if any action would be appropriate.
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