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Milton Won't Pay for Speedy Ambulance Service it Never Got

City Council votes to approve the lower cost after being told paramedics and EMTs on city fire engines respond within six minutes to emergency medical calls.

Milton is going to save more than $132,000 a year by not paying for faster ambulance response that's never been delivered.

Rural/Metro has never met its contractual requirement to have ambulances respond to emergency calls within eight minutes of 911 calls 90 percent of the time. Milton Fire Chief Robert Edgar said the ambulance service has been averaging  more than 11 minutes to get to Milton addresses.

The state approved a Regional Ambulance Zoning Plan which designates Rural/Metro as the 911 EMS providers for North Fulton, including Milton, Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Mountain Park, Roswell and Sandy Springs. Fulton County makes the choice of providers without input from the cities.

With a call volume so low in Milton, and ambulances being staged at Alpharetta Fire Station 1, it was not possible for the few ambulances Rural/Metro was staging to get to Milton calls in eight minutes or less.

Edgar, however, said the Milton Fire Department is getting its fire engines to the scene quickly, so residents still were being treated within six minutes of the 911 call. He said the Milton response time average is 5 minutes, 40 seconds.

"We're putting a paramedic on that medical call within six minutes," he said.

The city's firefighter/paramedics have the same advanced medical care available that paramedics on Rural/Metro ambulances can provide, the fire chief said.

"The only thing we can't do is transport the patient to a medical facility for advanced care," he said. "I think that's a little more comforting" for city residents, he said.

A serious medical situation will get two paramedics dispatched to the scene from Milton.

In addition to cutting the enhanced service cost out of the contract with Rural/Metro, the ambulance service picked by Fulton County to serve the region will increase the number of ambulances in the area by adding general transport ambulances for inter-facility transports. In peak hours, nine ambulances will serve the cities, up from six. Whenever the number of ambulances drops below five, Rural/Metro will cut off inter-facility transports to always make sure at least four are available.

The more than $11,020 a month subsidy Milton has been paying for faster service that's never happened will be cut in a few months to give the ambulance service time to adjust. Rural/Metro will agree to average 12 minutes or less in responding to 90 percent of all emergency calls – essentially what the ambulances are doing now, but without extra pay.

Milton has 17 paramedics. The rest of its firefighters are EMTs, Edgar said.

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