Leader Blues

Thursday, December 14, 2006

TOP STORY >>Sherwood signs MEMS contract

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Sherwood has just signed a five-year agreement with Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services for that agency to provide ambulance and other services to the city. Both Sherwood and MEMS are excited about the agreement. “I hope it’s forever,” said Mayor Bill Harmon who is ecstatic about the job the ambulance service has provided the city since Oct. 10.

MEMS took over the contract from Arkansas Emergency Transport in October after the Sherwood city council voted to terminate service with AET after a number of late responses, including one that contributed to the death of a middle school teen. “We just weren’t pleased and felt they weren’t providing for the safety of our citizens,” Harmon said. Under the contract, MEMS will have at least two ambulances on call in the Sherwood area at all times. “Once that second ambulance is called out, we’ll roll a third one into the area, and then a fourth and so on, if necessary,” explained Jon Swanson, executive director for MEMS.

Since taking over Oct. 10, MEMS has responded to 95 life-threatening calls (Code 1’s) and 206 non life-threatening calls (Code two’s). The agency is required by their policy and standard to respond to life-threatening calls within 9 minutes 90 percent of the time. Their Sherwood response time has averaged just over five minutes. “We we’re only late once,” said Swanson, “That’s a 98.9 percent.”

For non-life-threatening responses, the ambulance service must respond within 13 minutes 90 percent of the time. The agency’s average response time was 5 minutes and 38 seconds, with no late responses. “I’ve got to tell you, those are great times,” Swanson said. Systemwide, during that same time period, MEMES responded to 11,254 calls. MEMS has 41 ambulances and a staff of 250 full time and 80 part time employees and provides ambulance and others services for all of Pulaski County except Jacksonville and large portions of Lonoke, Faulkner and Grant County. It provides service to the cities of Lonoke and Cabot.

The ambulance service is an agency of Little Rock and was formed by city charter in 1984 to provide service for Little Rock. It receives no government or tax funds, according to Swanson. It survives on fees. “All of the money we collect goes right back into the service,” Swanson said, “and we are debt-free and that help tremendously.”

The charter that set up MEMS allows the ambulance service to provide mutual aid to nearby communities and to expand into other communities with the approval of it governing board and Little Rock city council. Because off the mutual aid agreement, MEMS was able to come into to Sherwood on an interim basis in October. In late November, the Sherwood city council approved a resolution allowing the mayor to sign an agreement with the ambulance company. The agency’s board of director’s approved the agreement the next day, and the Little Rock city council approved the expansion at its meeting early this month. Harmon has already signed the agreement, and its awaiting Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey’s signature to make it all official.

North Little Rock, Pulaski County and Maumelle quickly asked and received approval from Little Rock for MEMS to provide services to their areas. Since then, Grant County, Lonoke, Faulkner, Conway joined in. Cabot started using MEMS two years ago, and now Sherwood.

With Sherwood as one of the communities served by MEMS, the city has a seat on the agency’s board. Currently Alderman Marina Brooks is filling that seat. “We are off to a get start in Sherwood,” Swanson said. “We applaud and compliment the Sherwood fire and police departments. We appreciate their warm welcome and they are critical to our success.”