DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) – First Response Ambulance Service will continue to answer calls as needed in Decatur, for now. It means Decatur will continue to have two ambulance services operating within the city, at least through Monday night.
Decatur Fire Battalion Chief Darwin Clark says nothing regarding the ambulance service is going to change until the ruling has been explored by all parties, and he stressed when contacted by WHNT News 19 early Monday evening that public safety will not be compromised. Clark says they will meet at 8:30AM Tuesday to discuss the situation and that there will be no changes in service before that meeting.
Decatur Emergency Medical Services, Inc., or DEMSI, which has operated an ambulance service in Decatur for many years, filed a complaint in circuit court earlier this year claiming the city had violated its own regulations in granting a license to Healthcare Investment Group, Inc., (HIG) d/b/a/ First Response, to operate an ambulance service. Late Monday afternoon, Morgan County Circuit Court Judge Sherrie Paler issued a three-page ruling on the matter.
The ruling states the City of Decatur’s Emergency Medical Treatment and Transportation Service Ordinance requires an application for an ambulance service license “shall be sworn to by the applicant and contain…a copy of the most recent audited financial statements of the corporation.” It also required a statement of the location (i.e., physical address) of the ambulance service or units to be placed into operation. The Court found HIG’s application was merely submitted to the city clerk and failed to comply with those requirements.
The court ruling states, “First, HIG’s application was not sworn to by the applicants. It also did not contain a copy of any recently audited financial statements nor did it provide a physical address where HIG’s transport units would be located. The failure to comply with each of these mandatory provisions is a violation of the city ordinance. Therefore, according to the City of Decatur’s duly enacted ordinance governing emergency transport, HIG’s application is invalid as a matter of law.”
The ruling goes on to say since the license, or certificate of public necessity and convenience issued by the city, was granted in response to an invalid application, the license is rescinded and the City of Decatur is “enjoined” from issuing a license to HIG upon an application that fails to comply with its own ordinances.
The Court also ruled “HIG is enjoined from operating an ambulance service within the municipal limits of the City of Decatur” until a license in compliance with the city’s ordinances is issued.
WHNT News 19 spoke with First Response employees late Monday afternoon. They had not seen the ruling and were unaware of it’s findings. The employees said they were disappointed with the decision but vowed to stay on the job until instructed to do otherwise.
“We don’t do this for the money,” according to one First Response employee.
WHNT News 19 will attend Tuesday morning’s meeting and will report the outcome as soon as possible.