Fees for several EMS services increased

By Kevin Liles

It'll now cost more for services provided by Clayton County firefighters and other emergency personnel.

Four charges ranging from $50 to $350 have been added for services once provided free like extricating someone trapped in a vehicle or preparing them to be airlifted to a hospital.

In addition, the cost for five other services have been hiked, some as much as 100 percent.

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners adopted new fees for services such as preparation for a life flight, delivery of oxygen and advanced life support transportation.

"We were doing a lot of transporting for free, at the cost of the taxpayers," said Crandle Bray, chairman of Clayton County commission. "We are just trying to balance it out."

"It's been 10 years since the last increase," said Alex Cohilas, Clayton County fire chief. "Under the old structure, there was no way to get reimbursed for some work."

Cohilas said changes in Medicaid and Medicare now allow the county to collect for some services, like treating and releasing a patient on the scene.

"We couldn't collect on that before," he said.

Clayton County did an "exhaustive study" of other counties in metro Atlanta, Cohilas said, and brought their figures in line with those.

Keith Starr, deputy chief of fire and emergency services for Henry County, said he has been trying to get prices raised for several years.

"We're in the process of doing that now," he said.

Starr said they charge $300 for basic and advanced life support transportation, which is what Clayton County charged before the changes.

Cohilas said the changes are necessary because the county has been losing money on many calls emergency workers respond to.

In some cases, he said, people will refuse treatment after emergency workers respond to a 911 call.

"Our standard response is a medical unit, an engine company and an extrication company," he said. "So you've got at least eight or nine people going out on all these calls."

His department is constantly buying backboards n wooden boards that injured people are carried on. When people are left at the hospital on the boards, other ambulance companies will pick them up, he said.

The changes are worth it, considering what goes into emergency response, Cohilas said.

"Clayton County has one of the finest EMS services in the state," he said. "We have the most advanced training, the latest equipment and cutting edge pharmaceuticals. And it costs a lot of money to train these professionals."