City of Jacksonville Mulling a Second EMS Provider

By Benjamin Cox on February 23, 2024 at 9:06am

Echo Ambulance Service is in the process of applying to become a second emergency services provider within the City of Jacksonville.

Members of the City of Jacksonville’s Ambulance Commission met for the first time since September on Tuesday to talk about the progress of ambulance service reaching the 3 required Advanced Life Support rigs in operation in the city. The number is required by city ordinance, and Morgan County Emergency Management Coordinator and West Central Joint Dispatch Coordinator Phil McCarty previously reported to the City Council that LifeStar had consistently missed the required 3 rigs in operations continually over the last 4 years, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

ECHO Response joined the city’s ambulance services as a transfer-only contractual provider for Jacksonville Memorial Hospital in August. ECHO Response owner Danny Kloever told the Ambulance Commission today that he believes they are in a position now after providing satisfactory service over the last several months to the hospital that the company can provide 1 ALS rig to answer 9-1-1 calls in the city: “I believe that we have met the hospital’s expectations. I truly hope that we have actually exceeded that. We are stationed here in Jacksonville 24/7. We are in the old American Ambulance building [at Main & Walnut]. One thing that we found out whenever we started getting out into the community, my staff said that they were approached multiple times by community members asking if we were going to do 9-1-1 calls because there is a need for more coverage for the City of Jacksonville.”


McCarty says that the Ambulance Commission urged ECHO to submit their application for EMS services and also asked representatives from LifeStar who currently provide EMS to submit proposals on what it would like if both services in operation. McCarty says that proposal would then be pushed on to the city council.

McCarty says he’s unsure on whether or not this will be a repeat of the time both LifeStar and American Ambulance operated in the city prior to American’s overnight departure in 2018: “I don’t know if it’s the same song or a remake that we may be seeing here [with the two ambulance services]. I don’t know but it doesn’t solve our problems right now. Where we are at today and where we have been over the last 2 1/2-3 years is not a place where we need to be. If it’s a remix, and we start meeting the needs of the community then we’ll make it work. We’ve got to figure it out.”

President of LifeStar Roger Campbell, who wasn’t present at the meeting on Tuesday, sent an email to city officials after the release of meeting’s agenda complaining that his company wasn’t given enough notice. Deputy Clerk Sue Thomas posted the meeting’s agenda and emailed the agenda at 10:30AM Thursday, February 15th, almost 5 days prior to the meeting.

Campbell said he was disappointed by what he called a hasty decision: “Lifestar will have a representative there on Tuesday. I will add that the ‘late notice’ here is making it impossible for us to present some facts as I am out of town and our operations manager is out of town. I will only add that Lifestar is ‘very’ close to being back up to three (3) crews 24 hours and just added a NEW $ 120,000.00 ambulance to The Jacksonville Fleet.

“I also would like to take all you folks back to 2018 when you had two (2) companies and one of them sent their vehicles out of town and we were the ONLY one that chose to NEVER send out our LAST unit and leave Jacksonville uncovered. The last time there were two (2) companies one left even before their committed time to stay was up. I am sorry I cannot be there I only ask do you want to go back to 2018 again??

“I will only say that any hasty decision in this very important matter may very well not be in the best interests long term. COVID has changed everything. Government agencies and even the United States Postal Service can’t find help. Whatever your committee decides to do, make your decision wisely in the best for the long term of your community.

“It would be nice to have twice as many Police and Fireman but we all know you have to pay for it…I would only hope that if you have another meeting you at least give everyone ample time for scheduling.”

Phil McCarty says there’s still a ways to go to see what having two services again in Jacksonville would look like: “It’s really important to be equal and fair to both companies. It’s also really important for me to logistically not at times have to juggle who is next, who is up, where is everyone at when a caller calls into dispatch. It’s really important that’s very fluid and very easy for the line-level staff of both agencies as well as my staff can get a decision made. I’m dedicated to put the work in on the front end. It’s probably going to take a mix of training as well as technology to help try and find some of those solutions.”

The Ambulance Commission requested both companies to submit proposals on how and what operations would look like with both in operation in Jacksonville. The commission also did come to agreement that the ordinance would need to change to provide for more specifics on the number of rig requirements for both transfers, private calls, and for 9-1-1 operations. The new ordinance is also expected to have more “teeth” with monetary penalties per day for when one or both agencies fail to meet requirements.

More discussion is expected to occur at the Jacksonville City Council workshop session on Monday, February 26th.