New Grainger County EMS Director Marty Brown addressed the Grainger County Commission Monday night on costs of repairing the county’s ambulances as opposed to buying used ambulances.

It was not a pretty picture.

It would cost Grainger County an estimated $57,500 to get all of its ambulances back into service.

At this time, Grainger County is being served by two ambulances, not counting a loaned ambulance from Anderson County.

“We purchased three vehicles last year,” said Grainger County Mayor Mike Byrd. “As you can see, two of them are done out of service and one requires an engine.”

It would cost $400,000 for four new ambulances.

Byrd said that they have bids for four new ambulances at $109,000 each. A refurbished vehicle which was wrecked on its way to being delivered to its original customer is available for $96,000.

Brown said that he is speaking with two different vendors, TMA and Northwestern Emergency Vehicles. He wants to make sure that the ambulances will work for Grainger County.

The EMS has four rear boxes that can be remounted on new chassis for $85,000 each.

It can take 60 to 90 days for a rear ambulance box to be remounted to a new chassis, according to Brown.

“It’s not very advantageous for us because we’re in dire need. The ambulances built by one company, you send it to another company who is accustomed to building their trucks. Now they’re remounting someone else’s truck,” Brown said. “There are things that may be missing.”

One of the things that Brown found on the bids is some them come with a loading device that is pulled out from the back of the truck. The stretcher is locked in

“When you are lifting the weight of that stretcher and the weight of that patient, (especially one who weighs 300 pounds), that’s a lot of weight,” Brown said.

The power stretchers are $20,000.

“We’re behind the times now, even on monitors,” Brown said. “The monitors we have now are outdated. We’re not able to do everything mandated by the state. Our monitors are failing on calls, they’re old. Best I can understand, these are 10 years old. The guidelines (on the equipment required) have changed in the last two to three years.”

“What is required or what they want?” asked Commission Chairman Johnny Baker.

“What’s required,” Brown said.

One of the ambulances has 230,000 miles on it.

There is no ambulance for the town of Rutledge.

“One of the problems we have with the ambulances is that they were bought used,” Brown said. “For a truck, such as an ambulance, that is driven so hard for so long, you have to have extra. All of these will be diesels. The majority of the trucks we have were bought used. We don’t know how they were treated or how they were maintained before we got them.”

Commissioner Wendy Noe asked if the ambulances should be purchased at one or over a period of time.

“To tell you the truth, I’d like to see them purchased in stages so we are not bombarded at one time,” Brown said. “I’ve got a plan on how to replace them. Based on our current situation, we need all four.”

“If we purchased four, then that would put six in circulation because all of these others are coming out of service,” Noe asked.

“Exactly right, because it looks like we do have the ability at this point we’ll still have the two on the road, if nothing happens. We might be able to look at some others that could be possibly be replaced, but we do have the ability to put two into reserve which shouldn’t cost much because they won’t be used that much,” Brown said.

“Do we have the finances right now to accomplish this?” Commissioner Becky Johnson asked.

“We would have to go get an outlay note through the bank,” Byrd said. “It will be more than $400,000 if we do that.”

“It’s unfortunate to find grants for EMS,” Brown said. “Since the EMS is set up under the umbrella of the Emergency Management Agency, grant money can trickle down to EMS.”

When asked about smaller ambulances, Brown was blunt.

“You have no alternatives once you do that. For instance if there was a bad wreck, by going with a smaller ambulance, it’s so difficult to carry all of the equipment that’s needed by EMS. We are so far away from the hospital we don’t have the luxury of transporting to a hospital within 10 minutes. There’s a lot of equipment that will be needed on a lot of calls,” Brown said.

A smaller ambulance costs around $85,000, according to Brown.

“When you spend a lot of time in the back of an ambulance and you have a really critical patient, there’s times that you need more than two hands back there, sometimes more than four hands,” Brown said. “In a van-type ambulance, you have very little room. You have no room on the other side. Everybody is on the same side. If it’s a cardiac arrest, in my opinion, it makes it more difficult for patient care, you can’t get everything. A larger truck makes patient care more accessible.”

“One back injury could easily cost more than what these four ambulances are costing us to purchase and put into service if that medic is rendered incapable of working,” Noe said.

“You’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes, thank you for that,” Noe said. “Thank you for going above and beyond with the questions we’ve asked.”

Brown will bring the proposal back to the commission next month or sooner if conditions warrant.