By Richard Rourk

There will be a changing of the guard for Unicoi County’s ambulance service, and that change can happen any day now.

Unicoi County Ambulance Committee Chairman and Unicoi County Commissioner John Mosley recently spoke to The Erwin Record about Washington County/Johnson City EMS taking over the ambulance service from MedicOne.

“Right now I am hearing that Washington County will be taking over on July 15,” Mosley said. “This is the date that I’m hearing.”

The Unicoi County Ambulance Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, July 3, at 1 p.m. to discuss bridging the gap in pay for former MedicOne employees that will be serving Unicoi County with Washington County/Johnson City EMS.

“We are looking at seeing what we need to do to take care of these employees,” Mosley said. Mosley acknowledged that roughly 6-7 employees will transfer over to Washington County/Johnson City EMS when the agency begins serving Unicoi County.

According to Mosley, there would not be an increase to the $218,000 subsidy that Unicoi County will pay Washington County/Johnson City EMS for their services under the current interlocal agreement. The subsidy of $218,000 is the cost that Washington County/Johnson City EMS Executive Director Dan Wheeley has projected the county would spend annually if Unicoi County were to start its own service following the expiration of the interlocal agreement.

Mosley confirmed that Unicoi County is still looking to finance its own ambulances in the near future.

“We are still looking at utilizing the grant money,” Mosley said.

It was reported during the April 9 Unicoi County Ambulance Committee meeting that there could be funding to purchase the necessary vehicles. During that meeting, Town of Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley addressed the committee to discuss the Town of Erwin purchasing ambulances with $500,000 state grant funds.

“The grant could purchase two new ambulances and a possible third ambulance for transport,” Hensley said during the April 9 meeting.

Unicoi County Commissioner Marie Rice, at the April 9 meeting, acknowledged that Unicoi County still has $440,000 left over from the payment that Unicoi County received when Unicoi County Hospital was sold to Mountain States Health Alliance, which is now Ballad Health.

According to Hensley during the April 9 meeting, there could also be up to $150,000 that can be used from the Hospital Foundation Funds to start an ambulance service. According to Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely, the county is currently looking over all options.

Under the new interlocal agreement, Washington County/Johnson City EMS will provide and maintain adequate and sufficiently trained staff that possess all required licenses and certifications. Washington County/Johnson City EMS will provide two advanced life-support paramedic ambulance units 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

In addition, Washington County/Johnson City EMS will provide one staffed basic life support ambulance for 10 hours a day, five days a week. This basic life support ambulance will run Monday through Friday.