As a way to control costs without reducing service, commissioner Bebe Heiskell decided that for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, the county would no longer operate its own emergency medical service.
Instead, ambulance duties would be provided by an outside contractor.
An advisory council appointed by Heiskell, and that included the head of fire and emergency services, were unanimous in accepting Puckett’s bid to handle those duties for the county which has a population of about 68,000.
Part of that contract called for Puckett to purchase the county-owned ambulances, equipment and facilities necessary for its successful operation in a county that covers more than 446 square miles.
On Oct. 15, the company delivered a $1.3 million check, full cash payment for that purchase.
Terms of the contract call for Puckett to provide ambulance service with a base charge of $450 plus a $12-per-mile surcharge.
Heiskell said the amount being charged by Puckett is lower than that offered by the unsuccessful bidders and is certainly less than the $850-per-call charge that has been reported by some media outlets.
“This is a far, far better deal for the public,” she said. “This rate is nearly half what the others were charging for basic 911 service — which is what most people use.”
Company officials note that as part of its contract with the county, Puckett EMS will be retaining all of the county’s EMTs and paramedics, purchasing all of the county’s ambulance equipment, and will meet stringent response time benchmarks.
“We are looking forward to providing quality patient care, excellent customer service and unsurpassed professionalism as we serve this great community,” said Shane Garrison, co-founder and vice president of Puckett EMS.
Puckett’s regional headquarters is located in Chattanooga, where it employs 150 EMS providers and houses 30 ambulances. All of these resources, plus an additional 30 ambulances from Cobb County, could be made available to the citizens of Walker County in the event of a disaster.
In addition, Puckett EMS currently provides emergency and non-emergency medical transportation to many local areas, including Dade, Marion, and Sequatchie counties, as well as East Ridge, Tenn.
During its 14 year history, Puckett EMS has received numerous awards, including the 2014 Small Business of the Year, metro-Atlanta Regional EMS Service of the Year in 2004 and 2012, and the Georgia State EMS Service of the year in 2004 and 2015. Puckett EMS is one of only 140 services nationwide — and the only one in the tri-state area — to receive accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services.
“We are excited to be partnering with commissioner Heiskell, fire chief Camp, and other county leadership as we work to serve the citizens of Walker County,” said president and co-founder Steve Puckett.