Ocean Springs Leaders Debate Ambulance Service

There is ongoing debate this week about the future of ambulance service in Ocean Springs. American Medical Response has provided that service for the past 26 years. But there's a new company competing for the business.

The Louisiana-based Acadian Ambulance has already won a bid to negotiate for Jackson County's ambulance service. Ocean Springs aldermen must now decide whether to go along with the county's change or stay with AMR.

American Medical Response wants Ocean Springs residents to lobby city leaders. A newspaper ad encourages folks to phone the Mayor and City Aldermen.

"City officials should have some say into who their ambulance provider is going to be. And we think the public in general should have a say. It's an important issue. And we think the public should indeed have a say as to who their ambulance provider is going to be," said Steve Delahousey with  AMR.

Delahousey says Jackson County had virtually no input from the city before deciding to go with Acadian. That's part of the reason there's now a strong push from AMR.

The mayor of Ocean Springs says city leaders are getting input from both companies. "Like you say, they're doing some lobbying. And we've sat down with both companies and talked to them and had some discussions with both companies, all of us have," said Mayor Seren Ainsworth.

Response time is one of the issues aldermen will consider in choosing an ambulance service. AMR says, on the average, its ambulances in Ocean Springs respond to emergencies in 6-point-2 minutes. But instances of much slower response times will almost certainly be a part of the board's discussion.

"Every now and then you get calls when the people get bad service and they're not picked up. And I myself have seen it to where we've got some bad service in the past," said Alderman at Large, Danny Jalanavich.

Jalanavich admits AMR has improved, but he's convinced Acadian is still the better choice.

Delahousey wants city leaders to consult the experts.

"Listen to the police chiefs and fire chiefs. They're the ones we work with every day. We've received endorsements from most of the police chiefs and fire chiefs in the city and in the county."

The city board of aldermen will decide AMR's future at a meeting Wednesday night.