After reading the report of the Cumberland County Commission’s Emergency Services Committee meeting of September 27th, I was struck by the fact that neither the Mayor nor the Committee members thought outside the box when it comes to replacing the Director of the Ambulance Service and County Fire Department. Just because the departments could and probably should be separated, doesn’t mean a new director must be hired for each one.
The Ambulance Service could just as easily be outsourced to a professional organization/company which effectively and efficiently performs this service for many other Tennessee Counties, including Knox County (service provided by Rural Metro).
The Companies in the business are managed by professionals who could bring the talent and experience as well as economy of scale to the table. Currently, our home grown department requires a taxpayer subsidy which could be lessened or eliminated by these professionals. Service levels could be spelled out by contract.
A proposal from one such company several years ago also insured that all employees would continue to have jobs with their firm and all Capital Equipment (including Ambulances) would be purchased from the County.
The positions had been separate directors for at least 30 years until the current Mayor decided he wanted to combine them. He felt it could better be handled by one person and that by combining the positions some money could be saved through synergies and that both departments would be better run. After six years of one leadership, at least the Ambulance Service Department does not appear to be better run. Significant write offs of collectibles have been required (granted some were a legacy issues from the previous director but took years to be identified). It took years to identify that billing services had to be outsourced due to the complexities of the process and lack of local talent/experience to master them. Revenue forecasts have frequently been missed by hundreds of thousands of dollars causing potential cash flow issues. Budget Amendments for surprise budget overruns have occurred on more than one occasion.
This is an ideal time to consider at least getting quotes from several reputable firms to provide Ambulance Services to Cumberland County. The Mayor and Commissioners may be surprised at what they learn and may find that they can provide an equivalent or better level of service to the taxpayers. If not, at least there will be some benchmarks available for developing that job description that Dr. Fox rightfully suggested at the meeting was required before hiring a new Director.