Who makes decisions about which ambulance shows up in an emergency?
The vast majority of citizens assume the government. And in some ways that’s correct: the Department of Public Health oversees emergency medical services for the entire state, but they do not operate ambulances themselves.
Instead, state councils select ambulance providers that transport patients. Georgia is comprised of 10 health districts that encompass all 159 Counties. In many areas of the state, councils select private ambulance companies as providers. This is often good for taxpayers if the selection process is fair and transparent. Private ambulance companies can provide more efficient and cost effective service than the government. However, to ensure private providers are acting in the public’s best interest, DPH must enforce standards, exercise oversight, and, most importantly, demand transparency.
Unfortunately, today’s system does none of the above.
Georgia law does not exclude private ambulance company executives and representatives from serving on councils that choose regional ambulance providers. By law, regional council members are composed of members who are “knowledgeable in the field of emergency medical services.” A few private ambulance companies have taken advantage of the current system to get themselves appointed to regional councils. Once on the Council they use their influence and authority to oust current providers and install their own companies. They then use their newfound advantage to exclude any competitors that may be able to provide better service to the citizens. In sum, cooperate interests outweigh citizen service.