Nonprofit ambulance service may be cut in Guilford Co.

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- Guilford County's head of emergency services Alan Perdue has asked for $1.5 million to staff and equip a new EMS base near the airport, but Piedmont-Triad Ambulance and Rescue is wondering why they're no longer needed.

P-TAR uses EMT-Intermediates, which are a step below paramedic EMTs, to respond to nonemergency calls. Those include minor car accidents or transporting sick patients to the emergency room.

EMT-Intermediates don't carry as much equipment or medication as paramedics, but they are fully capable of performing basic life support measures. They can handle patients in shock from a bee sting, as well as patients with diabetes, and they also carry a defibrillator in case a patient's heart has stopped.

The group recently built a new base on Sandy Ridge Road in High Point for the same reasons Perdue said he wanted more staff in a new base about five miles away.

On January 1st, Guilford County EMS let P-TAR know the nonprofit ambulance service would no longer be needed for nonemergency calls. That's something P-TAR's been doing since 1971.

Now GCEMS is responding to the majority of those calls, which P-TAR's Paula Lineberry estimated comes to about 500 calls a month.

Medicare reimburses P-TAR or Guilford County an average of $325 per emergency transport. The reimbursements allow P-TAR to operate at no cost to Guilford County. By taking over more calls, Lineberry said Guilford County stands to gain about $1.5 million in revenue.

Perdue told FOX8 it's not about the money. He said he wants as many fully certified paramedics in as many places as possible, noting P-TAR is not authorized to handle certain situations.

"You have to be prepared for the highest priority calls. That's why we're there to serve the public," Perdue said.

P-TAR is a county franchisee, meaning they have a contract with Guilford County to supplement ambulance services. The budget is due in June, and after county commissioners decide how much money they'll give Perdue, GCEMS will decide whether or not they need to sign another contract with P-TAR.

Commissioner Billy Yow said he trusts Perdue's judgment about needing to be ready for anything and everything.

"There's so many things that many would say is not that important, but when it's your family member, it's of the most of importance," Yow said.

Yow said he would be "surprised" if Perdue got everything he was asking for, but guessed he would get most of it that $1.5 million to expand.

"[Perdue] is here to serve and protect, and I think that on their statistics and numbers, that's what he's operating off of," Yow said.

If GCEMS gets that money and expands its coverage, P-TAR will get fewer calls and may have trouble staying around due to lack of funds.

"We hope that they'll just renew our contract, and it'll be business as usual," Lineberry said.

Perdue said the new EMS base will result in better coverage for residents along Highway 68 in the northwest part of the county.