Barrow County plans to extend its transitional EMS budget another three months through the end of the calendar year as Northeast Georgia Health System continues work on hiring employees to take over ambulance transport services within the county.
During its work session Tuesday, Sept. 28, the county board of commissioners agreed to move the extension to the consent agenda for its Oct. 12 voting session and is set to approve roughly $158,000 out of contingency funds to fully fund the EMS department budget through December.
The BOC in July reached an agreement to outsource ambulance services to NGHS and its affiliate, Northeast Georgia Physicians Group — a move several years in the making that stemmed from discussion between county officials and commissioners that the county was having more difficulty fully staffing all of its ambulance needs amid both a continuously growing population in Barrow and a nationwide struggle by local governments to hire paramedics.
Two weeks before that agreement was approved, the BOC approved a three-month transitional budget that was slated to extend through this month while NGHS got its staffing in place to take over the ambulances. That process has taken longer than expected, Barrow County Emergency Services deputy chief Heath Williams said, though he added that health system officials had assured him they would not need any longer than the end of the year to fully take over operations.
Under the outsourcing agreement, NGHS/NGPG will staff four 24-hour ambulances and two 12-hour ambulances, which will be housed at BCES fire stations with the exception of the unit that is already stationed at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Barrow. The county will retain the EMS zone license.