SEOEMS employees, public fighting back
Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2005
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
That is the sentiment of a local effort to show support for Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services in the wake of
action last week by the Lawrence County Commission.
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The commission voted 2-1 last week to put the county's ambulance services contract out for bid, instead of automatically giving it to SEOEMS. That multi-county non-profit outfit has had the county's contract for more than three decades.
Joe Stevens, a paramedic who works for SEOEMS station 11 in Ironton, said employees are circulating petitions and waging a campaign to make the commissioners aware what the public sentiment is toward this idea.
"We want them to know we are not going to stand for this. Ever since this came out in the paper, we've gotten together and we're taking a stand," Stevens said. "It is disloyal to the people who work here. Some of them have been here 33 years - since it opened. We have dedicated our lives to this community and the people here."
"The fact that they want to bid it out at all … why"? And why now? I don't know what the commission thought we were going to do. But people need to know what the commission is plotting. It is George (Patterson) and Doug (Malone) who want to bid this thing out."
Stevens' colleague, Cindy Carver, agreed. She said when she first read of the commission's decision, she was devastated.
"We give this job 100 percent. Over the years we have taken care of thousands of people, thousands. And we do it because we care about the community. We are dedicated to this community. And we love our job," Carver said.
A new Web site, www.saveourseoems.org, has been established to rally local citizens to the cause. On the Web site, those opposed to the commission's decision decry the way in which the government leaders acted and questioned the reasoning behind the recent action.
The web site also touted SEOEMS' record of working under budget and returning money to the county at the end of the fiscal year for four of the last five years.
It also mentioned that if the ambulance contract were given to a private entity, the 64 people who work for SEOEMS in Lawrence County would lose their jobs. Even if those employees were hired by the private ambulance service, they would lose their state pension.
SEOEMS executive director Eric Kuhn said he expects the issue to be discussed when the SEOEMS board meets Sept.13. That meeting is a 6 p.m. at the Holzer Medical Center meeting room in Jackson.
Carver said she hopes the public will weigh what they have now against what they stand to lose if SEOEMS no longer provides the county's ambulance service and then make their opinions known to the county commission.
"We want people to know that we have been there for them," Carver said.
"If it was 3 o'clock in the morning and they called, we were there. When ever they have called we have been there and now we need them to be there for us."
When asked if he had seen the Web site and knew of the petition drive, Lawrence County Commissioner Doug Malone, who called for the service to be put up for bid, said he had only learned of the Web site and had not seen it.