Seminole County Goes With Private Company For Emergency Management

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Updated By:Emily Johnson
June 13, 2014

Seminole County, GA

In April a 911 supervisor from Decatur County denied an assistance request from a Seminole County counterpart in what turned out to be a call on a fatality.

Fast forward to June and Seminole County has decided to privatize their Emergency Management Services.

"We felt that after looking at privatization we could build a better and a more efficient trained service," said Chuck Orrick, Seminole County Commissioner.

Orrick is Chairman of the County Commission and says moving the EMS to a private company has nothing to do with Decatur County and that both counties have been looking at privatization for quite some time.

"We were looking at this process with Decatur County long before the situation took place, we have an excellent relationship with Decatur County," said Orrick.

The two counties originally planned to do a partnership and have one company offer the services for both, but Decatur County decided to go in a different direction.

Now Seminole County, who chose Mid-Georgia as their EMS provider is requiring their employees to reapply for their current jobs with the new company.

"We have to actually bring in resumes and fill out applications and it's strictly a formality they say, but you know it's still a little frightening," said Tori Read, Paramedic for Seminole County.

Read says they'll start the application process within the next week. Commissioner Orrick says they have a tentative start date of July 1st for when Mid-Georgia will take over EMS.

It will cost Seminole County $245,000 to privatize their EMS.

"Well I'm hoping by going with a private company it'll be more cost efficient and be more productive and provide better services for our citizens," said Beverly Burke, Seminole County Resident.

As we first reported Wednesday, JoAnn Joiner was suspended for three 24 hour shifts from Decatur County EMS.

Decatur County Administrator Gary Breedlove says he took the additional step of firing Joiner Thursday after getting input from other emergency services and reviewing Joiner's calls with Seminole County.

Last month, Joiner denied neighboring Seminole County's request for an ambulance for 77 year old Dick Guber.

He suffered a fatal heart attack or stroke.

However, his widow says he was likely gone when she called 911.

911 recordings have been released in a case resulting in a suspension and shake ups at two Georgia E-M-S services.

We first reported Wednesday Decatur County EMS denied a help request from Seminole County.

77 year old Dick Guber died of an apparent heart attack or stroke.

His widow believes he was probably gone before she called 911.

But what happened after that call has been an issue.

Peggy Guber says she was awakened by her husband Dick's labored breathing on March 12th.

"By the time I got to his side of the bed, he had his head over, I knew he was gone," Peggy said.

After she couldn't find a pulse and gave mouth to mouth, Peggy called 911.

"My husband I believe has just had a stroke, I'm here alone and have no one to help me," Peggy told a 911 dispatcher.

Seminole County does have a sub station near Peggy's home in the remote Lake Seminole area.

But when she called, both active ambulances were on other runs miles away.

Seminole County EMS called Decatur County for help or mutual aid which they'd granted numerous times.

"We'll let 'em know," the Decatur County dispatcher told her Seminole County counterpart.

"All right then, thank you so much, so they're going to go? " the Seminole dispatcher asked.

"If they don't, we'll call you back," the Decatur dispatcher replied.

Ten minutes later, Decatur County EMS called Seminole County to deny help without explanation, stating one of the Seminole crews would have to respond.

"They can go ahead and take one to the hospital and go?" questioned the Decatur dispatcher.

"That's what they're trying to do, because y'all can't," answered the Seminole dispatcher.

"Okay they can handle it then," said the Decatur dispatcher.

Decatur County Administrator Gary Breedlove says JoAnn Joiner made the decision not to send a crew because she thought a Seminole County ambulance could get there first.

While Breedlove says the decision probably didn't cost Dick Guber his life, help denial could be costly in other cases.

"If there's a call for mutual aid, we go, if it's possible to go," said Breedlove. "If we're doing stuff, we go as fast as we can," he said.

JoAnn Joiner was suspended for three 24 hour shifts and issued a written reprimand.

While she has faced prior discipline, this new action is the first one in more than seven years.

Both Decatur and Seminole EMS were having their services reviewed by an outside group at the same time as the 911 call.

Both agencies are implementing changes as a result of that review.

By: Andy Alcock
April 2, 2014, 6pm

A 911 call, and the response to it, has caused a shake up in two EMS services in our area.

One worker has been suspended, and both services are reviewing their operations.

A dirt road leads to a house near Lake Seminole in a remote part of the tip of Southwestern Georgia.

Dick and Peggy Guber called it home for 24 years.

On March 12, 2014, Peggy woke up to hear her husband of nearly 56 years having difficulty breathing.

It turned out to be a fatal heart attack or stroke.

"I felt for a pulse, tried to do mouth-to-mouth, went directly to the phone, and called 911," said Peggy Guber.

When Seminole County dispatch answered, the 911 operator realized the two EMS ambulances were out on other calls.

So a request was made to Decatur County EMS for help or mutual aid.

The shift director at that time, JoAnn Joiner, checked and found her crews were also busy.

Joiner, who used to work in the same job in Seminole County, told her bosses she checked that services runs.

She determined Seminole County would make it to the Guber home faster than the Decatur County crews would.

As a result, she denied the mutual aid request.

"If you call for mutual aid, she should've responded, our EMS should've responded," said Gary Breedlove, Decatur County Administrator.

As a result, Joiner was suspended three 24 hour shifts, or about two weeks without pay, and was issued a written reprimand.

WCTV asked: "Did you consider termination as a possibility in this case?"

Breedlove responded: "Absolutely."

Seminole County EMS Director Toby Roland says it's the first time he can recall Decatur County EMS denying a mutual aid call.

He says it's prompted a review of mutual aid agreements with four neighboring counties and a regional agreement.

And its resulted in a clear directive for Decatur County EMS.

"If there's a call for mutual aid, we go if it's possible to go," said Breedlove. "If we're doing stuff, we go as fast as we can," he said.

"I hate to see anybody in trouble because as I said, there's no way they could've helped him, even if they'd been right next door," said Guber.

We're told following an outside review conducted right in the midst of this incident, both counties are seriously considering hiring a private company to run their EMS services.

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