Martinsville City Council discusses how to cover city's EMS calls

City's backup EMS provider unexpectedly shut down in September


Martinsville City Council has given the fire department approval on a request for companies to submit bids for being the city's backup EMS provider, or an RFP.

In a meeting Tuesday evening, city council approved the fire department using money from its part-time firefighter budget to pay part-time firefighters to staff and run the department's third ambulance to cover EMS calls, but only until bids are received from the RFP. 

The RFP is expected to go out by the end of the week. 


The Martinsville Fire Department has two ambulances to handle EMS calls and a third as a backup in case one of the other two breaks down or is taken out of service for maintenance.

Still, Martinsville Fire Chief Ted Anderson says there are about 180 calls a year that a backup agency has to cover because the department is tied up on other calls.

That works out to about one call every other day.

"In order to take care of our citizens, we want to use what we have in-house, which is our backup ambulance and our part -timers, and staff those while we put out an RFP," Anderson said.

An RFP is a request for companies to submit bids for being the city's backup EMS provider.

Stone Ambulance, the city's previous provider, unexpectedly went out of business last month.

"We're looking at running anything from a 10 to 12 hour shift utilizing our part-timers until we get the RFPs back," Anderson said.

Henry County helps backup the city, but with Stone Ambulance out of business the county is also without a backup provider.

That means county first responders could be tied up on calls in the county and not be able to respond to the city.

City residents would then simply have to wait until an ambulance in the city or county was available.

"There's really not a lot of capacity in the budget to absorb something unusual," Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki said.

Towarnicki estimates using part-time firefighters long-term would cost around $120,000 a year.

He also estimates that approximately half of that cost could be covered using money left over in the fire department's budget each year.

Where the rest would come from is unknown.

How much a private provider would cost is also unknown.

"We really wouldn't know how that's going to impact the budget next year until we get into the budget process," Towarnicki said.

He said tax increases are not likely, however, which means cuts would have to be made in the city's budget.

Anderson will address Martinsville City Council members at Tuesday night's council meeting and council members will have to decide how to move forward.

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