DECATUR — The city of Decatur is a step closer to having a second ambulance service a little more than a week after new regulations were approved by the city council.
A hearing officer appointed by the city has signed off on Champaign-based Arrow Ambulance LLC's license application to become the second ambulance service to operate in Decatur, according to a report released Monday afternoon.
“... it is my finding that the Applicant complies with or will comply with the requirements of Chapter 53," hearing officer Steven Mahrt’s wrote. Chapter 53 refers to the Decatur City Code related to the operation of an ambulance service.
Decatur Ambulance Service currently is the only ambulance service in the city. The longtime family-operated service was acquired in June by Hospital Sisters Health System, the parent company of HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital.
It’s not clear from the report when Arrow could begin operating in the city. The report said that any party “aggrieved” by its conclusions has 10 days to file a request for review with the clerk of the city council. The council would then consider the report and make a determination "in the best interest" of the community, according to city code.
Interim City Manager Billy Tyus said he could not comment on the specifics of the report, but confirmed the next steps in the process as laid out in city code.
In the report, Larry Sapp, director of Arrow Ambulance LLC, said Arrow plans to hire 32 EMT/paramedics, three supervisors and one manager to provide services in Decatur.
The report has testimony from Decatur Memorial Hospital officials and others about the need for additional ambulance services within the city.
Ted Clark, the emergency medical director at DMH, testified that there has been a 12 percent increase in the number of critically injured patients being transported there. He said that sometimes there is a delay in the availability of emergency transport vehicles, which in turn creates a greater danger to the patient.
The lone concern raised in the report came from Jerrime Hiser, business agent for Teamsters Local 916, who said competition in ambulance services could undercut wages and benefits provided to current paramedics.
The report comes a little more than a week after the Decatur City Council unanimously approved sweeping changes to rules for ambulance service operators in Decatur. Under the new rules, ambulance calls in Decatur would be overseen by the city's fire department and folded into the department's emergency incident command system.
Decatur Fire Chief Jeff Abbott told the council at its Aug. 20 meeting that the changes will allow the fire department to better coordinate emergency services based on the situation.