Monday’s meeting was the first opportunity that the public could hear from representatives of CareMed ambulance service, and from what we have seen, they company’s executives seem receptive to making the changes that Newton County needs and deserves.
While we would have loved to hear the whole discussion in the open, we understand why they used the reasons of “litigation” and “personnel” for the first part of the discussion. And we are glad that the supervisors opened up the discussion for questions and answers from the general public after they came back into open session.
One thing that became apparent is that the supervisors appeared ready to end its current contract with CareMed on Monday. If they did pull the trigger, the board could have opened itself up to litigation, and they could have been discussion the job performance of specific county employees.
However, CareMed officials agreed to the supervisors’ ultimatum. They agreed to regular monthly accountability meetings. They agreed to being penalized monetarily if they did not fulfill the terms of their agreement, which is to have three fully-staffed ambulances at all times.
The terms of this deal will be drawn up and approved at a future meeting, which could be as soon as Aug. 2 at 10 a.m.
That being said, we believe the public had a right to hear that discussion in executive session. If it became apparent that they needed to go into executive session after the discussion started, then they could have done so at that point, but we are glad that there was an opportunity to have questions and answers with CareMed. The public needed to hear these answers, but they should have heard all of the discussion. This is a matter of public safety, and that should trump any decision to have this type of discussion in closed session.
And honestly, regardless of whether the supervisors were going into the meeting knowing that they were going to end the contract, that’s a matter of public record.
The discussion is not over. The public needs to hear from the supervisors and CareMed much more frequently on this issue. We are in favor of the monthly accountability meetings as long as they are held in public and that CareMed’s documentation of how they’re doing is also available for the public to see.
These issues are not new, but in their own words, CareMed’s issues have been catastrophic failures. They need to be addressed, or the supervisors will likely be looking for a new ambulance provider.