Concerns about ambulance service create rift in Pocahontas

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) – Pocahontas Mayor Frank Biggers says the city has offered a 5 year extension to Pro-Med for ambulances services for the town.

A decision last spring about the ambulance service in Pocahontas has created tension between city hall and several concerned citizens, and a resolution appears unlikely at this point.

A group calling for the independent emergency medical services (EMS) board in Pocahontas raised two issues during a City Council meeting in May 2012. People are concerned about who will respond during emergencies and how it will be evaluated in the future.

"We feel like the City Council didn't perform due diligence in investigating the statistics and data on the current EMS provider," said Andy Ball, a local paramedic.

Ball helped organize the group opposing Ordinance 2012-07, which was passed in late March.  The ordinance allowed the City of Pocahontas to grant an exclusive franchise to ProMed Ambulance so that it can provide coverage within city limits. The council established the ambulance franchise after concerns of inadequate coverage from the current provider, Medic One.

The City Council held a public hearing on March 26, 2012 to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing the franchise. Ball says few in the community supported the idea, and he insists officials failed to explain what made the current provider inadequate.

"I think that the community stands to say that the current EMS provider has done an exceptional job," Ball said.

He and others have collected enough signatures to petition the ordinance. The Pocahontas City Council decided Tuesday to allow people to vote on the referendum in November.

"Therefore, we're going to petition this ordinance be voted down," Ball explained, "and that an EMS board be established to review current or future EMS activities."

Rob Olvey, a Pocahontas alderman, says the council previously discussed naming an advisory board, similar to the one proposed by Ball. The council decided Tuesday to have one of its committees look into creating such an advisory board.

"There's probably some differences in who would be on the board and some other things between the council and Mr. Ball," Olvey said, "but, no, I think that idea overall is a good one."

Olvey says he and the other alderman decided to pursue a franchise to simply get more than two ambulances in the area, which the current provider could not furnish.

"We want to be covered," Olvey said. "We want our families to be covered, and we want everybody in the city and the county to have the proper EMS coverage, the best EMS coverage they can get."

Copyright 2012 KAIT. All rights reserved.