HEFLIN — Within two months Ranburne residents should have another ambulance service to choose from, according to the owner of an ambulance company located in nearby Carrollton, Ga.
Skipper Harmon, owner of Lifeline Emergency Medical Services, said he has been contacted by people in the Ranburne area asking if he could station an ambulance in the area.
“We checked the demographics of it and we met with several people over there. They said they’d love to have us come over there. Our primary goal is to come over there and serve the community,” Harmon said.
Harmon stressed that Lifeline will back up the Cleburne County EMS when needed but would also respondto calls made toLifeline’s dispatcher.
Harmon said that his company can’t respond to 911 calls unless he is asked to.
“I’m not going to step in on 911 calls. That’s illegal and I won’t do that,” Harmon said.
At a Cleburne County Hospital Board meeting Thursday night, Cleburne County EMS director Tracy Lambert told the board he recently met with Harmon who told him the company will be there to back up the EMS service.
Lambert said Cleburne EMS has no ambulance stationed in Ranburne but did briefly in 2010; it proved cost-prohibitive for the volume of calls in that area, he said. Cleburne EMS’s headquarters is on County Road 46 in Heflin.
Lambert said he was concerned about the motives of the Georgia company’s rationale for locating in Cleburne County. He told the hospital board that the numbers just don’t add up for a private ambulance company to locate in Ranburne, which does not have that many calls.
“In seven months we’ve had 56 calls in from that area, out of those we had 25 that did not want transport,” Lambert said about the call volume from the town limits of Ranburne.
Earlier in the meeting Lambert told the board he averaged the expense of all of the 1,290 calls Cleburne EMS has run this fiscal year. Per-call revenue was $651.74, and per-call cost was $624.52, according to Lambert.
“A lot of people don’t understand, 40 percent of these calls we don’t get paid for,” Lambert said.
Lambert estimated it would cost $276,693 per year in labor alone to staff an ambulance with a two-person crew in Ranburne.
“No private company is going to come into an area with a $270,000 plus expenses just for labor to help out. It ain’t gonna happen,” Lambert said.
Lambert said that he believes once the new ambulance service is established, if it comes, its leaders will ask for taxpayer money at some point.
Lambert said if the ambulance company chooses to locate in Ranburne he will work with them.
“If it’s coming anyways we need to try to work together as much as we can,” said Lambert.
Harmon said that Cleburne EMS is probably overwhelmed at times due to the fact that the county is over 500 square miles.
“I know other services come in,” Harmon said.
Harmon said his ambulance will respond to calls not only in Ranburne but can “travel anywhere they need us to travel.”
Harmon plans to put up a billboard in Ranburne to advertise and will have a “meet and greet” soon to promote the business.
Harmon said his medics will be dual-certified in Alabama and Georgia, and the crew will be trained in rescue and vehicle extractions.
Harmon said he has met with Cleburne officials and plans to be at the Ranburne Town Council meeting Thursday night.
“I just want them to understand, we’re coming to assist and help the Town of Ranburne and help Cleburne County, we’re not coming in here to, I mean, I’ve had some people think we may want to take over. That’s not our intentions,” said Harmon.
Jim Smith, Ranburne’s mayor, said that he would be in favor of having an ambulance stationed in town because the Cleburne EMS is located, “15 to 16 miles from here to where the ambulances are stationed at.”
Smith said that sometimes it takes 30 minutes or longer to get an ambulance to Ranburne because the ambulances may be tied up in the northern part of the county.
“Cleburne County is a long, stretched-out county,” Smith said.