DUNWOODY, Ga. — October marks the 12th month of DeKalb County being out of compliance with its agreement to provide ambulance services in Dunwoody, according to City Councilman Terry Nall.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with DeKalb County was approved by the Dunwoody City Council Nov. 5, 2018. It requires 90th percentile response times of 9 minutes or less for Advanced Life Support (ALS) and 15 minutes or less for Basic Life Support (BLS).

According to data presented to the council from the DeKalb County Fire Chief, the only time frame the county met those times was December 2018 for ALS, at 8 minutes and 56 seconds. However, that same month the response time for BLS was more than 20 minutes. 

Ambulance Response Times

Advanced Life Support 90th Percentile Response Time Basic Life Support 90th Percentile Response Time
November 2018 11:25 14:47
December 2018 8:56 20:48
January 2019 12:16 15:02
February 2019 12:44 16:06
March 2019 12:11 16:10
April 2019 13:21 18:05
May 2019 13:21 18:05
June 2019 13:00 15:15
July 2019 11:10 13:56
August 2019 13:45 15:28

“It is acknowledged directly [by DeKalb County] that the MOU is not just an understanding, but is a separate legally-binding agreement,” Nall said. “And yet today, the county remains noncompliant on response times and the GPS requirement.”

The city declared DeKalb County in breach of the MOU on July 8. The county has attested that it is not violating the contract because overall emergency medical response, provided through ambulances and fire rescue, does comply with the standards in the MOU. 

At an Oct. 14 Dunwoody City Council meeting, Mayor Denis Shortal provided an update on his conversations with DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond. At the same time, Nall asked fellow council members to consider what they would be willing to do if the county continues to fail to comply. 

Shortal said Thurmond did answer some of the city’s questions, such as clarifying that Rapid Response Vehicles (RRV) could be staffed by a paramedic or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). 

The mayor confirmed all Dunwoody units have radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology installed, but not the MOU-required GPS. The county said it is working with a vendor on the GPS systems. 

Mayor Shortal had previously asked for a fourth full-time unit in Dunwoody, and the response was that DeKalb County would do a modeling to determine if that would improve the response times. DeKalb County has since said they don’t have the equipment to do the modeling.  

“I think we can justify a fourth unit here because of the geographical problems we have with mutual support,” Shortal said. “A great proportion of the city of Dunwoody is not bordered by DeKalb County … The percentage of calls that are answered from outside Dunwoody is high enough that the fourth unit would most likely cover that.”

Instead, DeKalb County said they will try to enhance response times by stationing the units that are already in Dunwoody closer to the geographical location with the largest number of calls.

“That’s going to be something for the council,” Shortal said. “We have to decide if we’re going to give them that latitude.”

Shortal said he has requested another meeting with the CEO one-on-one. Nall praised the mayor for work to date. 

“There’s no question we’ve seen significant improvements with the ambulance services here in Dunwoody,” Nall said. 

Still, Nall said he was looking for more precise action steps that the county would take.

“The question I would ask of council is at what point do we take the county attorney at their word and treat this as a legally binding document and resolve it accordingly,” Nall said. “What action would we take if this was a contractor that was in persistent noncompliance with a legally binding document?”

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