VALLEY, Ala. (WRBL) – Historic changes are coming to Emergency Medical Services in the City of Valley as the city council gives Mayor Leonard Riley permission to pursue a contract with East Alabama Water, Sewer and Fire to merge EMS services.
Mayor Riley tells News 3 the merger will save the city a ton of money, while offering the same care. However, the transition is not without controversy. News 3 spoke with one Valley paramedic who says many of her co-workers are losing their jobs.
Soon, Valley EMS sirens will go silent as city leaders firm up a contract to pay East Alabama Water, Sewer, and Fire to provide ambulance service. Mayor Riley says the city will pay $275,000 for the first three years of service; then pay $300,000 for year four and five. Riley says overall; the merger will save the city nearly $500,000 the first five years.
“Fire EMT’s work 52 hours a week without overtime. EMS personnel make overtime at 40 hours. So, that cuts out $200,000 out of next years fiscal budget,” explained Riley.
The Mayor said the City of Valley is the only city in Alabama that he knows of that still has their own stand-alone EMS service. He says most city’s merge with fire service. Riley says most EMS services staff one paramedic, not two as Valley EMS runs now. Riley says one paramedic will be on each ambulance after the transition.
“Service will it stay the same. In fact, response times may be better because we will have an ambulance out at the new fire station which is closer to some areas of the city,” said Riley.
Hannah Hand is a part-time paramedic with Valley EMS. Hand says discussions regarding the merger were done behind the backs of the paramedics and employees at Valley EMS. Hand is also concerned about turning ambulance care over to the fire department.
“I don’t think they are really prepared for all they have to do,” Hand said.
Hand believes several Valley paramedics can’t transfer to the East Alabama Fire District because of the physical demands of graduating fire school.
“My co-workers, who are also my friends, are losing their jobs, their retirement, what are they going to do,” Hand asked.
The Mayor confirms some Valley paramedics have already left, creating staffing issues. Riley says Lanett Fire and EMS is providing mutual aid to cover calls until the merger is complete.
Mayor Riley says the contract is already approved and signed by the City of Valley. Riley says East Alabama Water, Sewer and Fire are still going over the details. Nevertheless, the merger is expected to go through October 1st.
Tony Segrest, The District Manager of East Alabama Water, Sewer and Fire, says a public meeting will be held Thursday at 5:30 at their Fob James Drive location to discuss the merger. Segrest says his team is committed to providing the same level of EMS care or better than the current service.