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Walker County to transfer ambulance service

Walker County will change ambulance providers in February.

Commissioner Shannon Whitfield, during his Sept. 24 meeting, accepted a proposal from CHI Memorial Hospital EMS to provide emergency and non-emergency ambulance service for the county effective Feb. 1, 2021, at 7 a.m., pending execution of a contract containing the terms outlined in the request for proposals.

“I want to be clear that this is in no way happening because of any kind of breach of contract of the current contract. There has been a professional service provided by (current ambulance contractor) Puckett EMS over the last 4-1/2 years, but, as you mentioned, we have to do our due diligence for the citizens,” Walker County Fire Rescue Chief Blake Hodge said following Whitfield’s announcement.

The county received five proposals to provide ambulance service under a four-year contract. CHI Memorial proposed a front-loaded contract, requesting $1 million up front to purchase the equipment the county requires.

Puckett EMS proposed an annual subsidy of just over $1.11 million. American Medical Response, also called AMR, proposed an annual subsidy of $644,000, Amerimed EMS proposed $28,821 per month (or $345,852 annually), and Hamilton EMS proposed $1.68 million annually.

“CHI Memorial submitted the most appropriate/reasonable subsidy of all contractors,” Hodge wrote in a memorandum recommending CHI Memorial for the contract, adding that the subsidy requested matches what the county currently pays per year while adding a fifth ambulance and a 24 hour-per-day shift supervisor.

Hodge’s memo noted CHI Memorial has more than 32 years of experience in emergency medical service delivery, including 911 experience, as well as operates two health care clinics in Walker County and a hospital in Fort Oglethorpe.

Hodge characterized the business as hospital-based service and pointed out its “competitive charges for service,” including a 61.4% discount for uninsured, self-pay transports.

“CHI Memorial is vested in our community, and I feel this provides the foundation for successful pre-hospital service delivery to Walker County citizens and traveling public,” Hodge wrote.

Ambulance woes

Whitfield, when opening the bids Aug. 31, explained that about five years ago then-Commissioner Bebe Heiskell ended the county’s ambulance service, sold the assets for it and sought an ambulance provider for five years. She contracted with Puckett EMS for five years with a $250,000 annual subsidy.

Whitfield said the county requested proposals increasing the number of ambulances available for 24-hour service from four to five to keep pace with the county’s growth and increasing call volume.

Shawn Lawler, during the commissioner’s meeting, asked the commissioner how the $1 million would be funded, sharing his concerns that there would not a funding debacle like the debt the county incurred to support Hutcheson Medical Center.

Erlanger Health System loaned Hutcheson Medical Center $20 million in April 2011; Walker and Catoosa counties each backed half of the loan.

Walker County instituted a public health facilities fee, which was tacked on to property tax bills, to repay the debt. The loan has been repaid, and Whitfield removed the fee from tax bills last year.

The $1 million will be taken from the current fiscal year budget — something the county can afford to do now but could not have a few years ago, Whitfield said.

Transport fees

CHI Memorial, according to its proposal, will charge $32 per mile; $893 for non-emergent, basic life support; $1,423 for emergent, basic life support; $1,066 for non-emergent, advanced life support; $1,691 for emergent, advanced life support; and $2,447 for emergent, advanced life support 2 service.

Puckett EMS proposed charging $16.50 per mile, $1,220 for basic and advanced life support and $2,015 for advanced life support 2 service.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, the perfect time to schedule a mammogram

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and the perfect time to schedule a mammogram, the best tool available for the early detection of breast cancer.

“When the cancer is small and in the early stages it is easier to treat,” said Dr. Dan Phillips, a radiologist with Rome Radiology Group who has lived in Rome for 13 years.

He was one of the founding physician leaders of The Breast Center at Floyd and is the lead interpreting physician for breast imaging.

“Organizations including the Society of Breast Imaging and National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend that women of average risk get screening mammograms every year starting at age 40,” Phillips said. “Now imagine all the women who missed their mammogram this year due to the pandemic. The lack of a mammogram may allow a small stage 1 cancer the chance to become stage 2. This is even more important for our higher risk women.”

Floyd offers mammography services at The Breast Center at Floyd, Polk Medical Center, Cherokee Medical Center, and via Floyd’s Mobile Mammography Coach. With our Know in 24 promise, patients can rest assured they will have quick screening results and prompt access to additional care when needed.

Understanding the different types of mammograms and why they are given is important.

♦ A screening mammogram is a used to find breast changes in women who have no signs or symptoms or breast cancer.

During a screening mammogram, most women get two to three X-rays of each breast — with each X-ray taking approximately 20-30 seconds. An abnormal mammogram will often be followed by additional breast imaging and possibly a breast biopsy. A breast biopsy removes a small amount of breast tissue so that a pathologist can evaluate the tissue and look for breast cancer cells.

♦ A diagnostic mammogram is used to evaluate a breast irregularity.

New breast lumps, skin changes, or a focused area of breast should be promptly evaluated by a health care provider.

Diagnostic mammograms are often done in conjunction with a breast ultrasound to fully evaluate a breast problem.

♦ Around 8% to 10% of all mammograms show some type of breast abnormality that needs further evaluation. Only around 20% of these abnormalities will result in a diagnosis of breast cancer.

“If you missed or postponed your mammogram this year due to COVID-19, now is the time to take care of yourself,” Phillips said. “Be proactive. Call your preferred facility and schedule your mammogram today. It’s not too late.”

Walker County COVID-19 testing site moves

The Walker County Health Department will switch its COVID-19 testing site Oct. 1 to Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 289 Dunwoody Road, LaFayette, and will no longer offer testing at the Chattanooga Valley Nazarene Church in Flintstone.

Testing will be from 9 a.m. to noon and 12:30-4:30 p.m. on Thursday and Fridays.

The new test site will feature drive-up processing, and no appointments are needed.

For information about COVID-19 testing, including locations, days and hours, visit the Walker County Health Department’s Facebook page. For information about all Northwest Health District COVID-19 test sites, go to https://nwgapublichealth.org.

Walker County commissioner ponders overhauling garbage storage, junk car ordinance
Proposed ordinance would create special event permits

Commissioner Shannon Whitfield in October will consider ordinances for special events permits and storage of household refuse and inoperable vehicles in unincorporated areas of Walker County.

A proposed ordinance would create a special events permit as part of the county’s business code, stating it would reduce confusion for event planners and entrepreneurs and “is necessary to safeguard public health and safety by providing for effective emergency preparedness and response.”

Neighboring counties already have similar special events permits, according to the proposed ordinance.

The proposed amendments to the ordinance pertaining to inoperable vehicles and the storage of household garbage and trash maintains the limit that no more than two inoperable or unlicensed motor vehicles may be parked, kept or stored outside on any premises; however, the proposed amendment requires that “such vehicles must be covered with a tarp or vehicle covering and parked behind a building, home or other structure obstructing the view from the road.”

That ordinance would be updated to require mechanical and body work, as well as painting vehicles, to be done in approved structures and spray booths, respectively.

The requirements for the clean and sanitary storage of garbage would be updated to add that the storage be in a “plastic or galvanized trash container with a lid until removed from the premises for disposal at a garbage disposal facility.”

Similarly the ordinance requirement for rubbish storage would be amended to require rubbish storage in clean and sanitary manner by placing such rubbish in “a plastic or galvanized trash container with a lid until removed from the structure and disposed of at a rubbish storage facility or garbage facility.”

Theodore D. Rosenthal, 52, has been arrested in connection with a fire that occurred in Rossville on Sept. 19. He is charged with felony first-degree arson and is being held at the Walker County Detention Center.