Public hearings set for ambulance franchise contract

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Jul. 21—Two public hearings are scheduled in August for a recommendation to award Lee County's ambulance franchise service to FirstHealth of the Carolinas.

The hearings will be held as part of the county commissioners' upcoming August meetings. The first is scheduled for Aug. 2 at McSwain Center on Tramway Road.

The second will be held Aug. 16 at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center. The board will make a decision whether to award the contract after the second meeting, according to Whitney Parrish, county attorney.

A five-member Emergency Medical Services Advisory Committee which was established and began meeting in May has recommended awarding the contract to FirstHealth.

Duke LifePoint Healthcare, owner of Sanford's Central Carolina Hospital, has had no competitor for the contract since 1997, Parrish has said.

Current committee members are Shane Seagroves, director of Lee County's Emergency Services; Deputy Chief Ken Cotten of the Sanford Fire Department; Dr. Russell Harrell, Central Carolina Hospital's medical director; and the emergency services coordinators of Harnett and Moore counties.

The committee has met multiple times with representatives of FirstHealth and Duke LifePoint and voted 3-2 to award the contract to FirstHealth.

Committee members cited several reasons for the choice in a memo prepared for the commissioners.

Among them were the numbers of FirstHealth's ambulance and staff that would provide around-the-clock coverage in Lee County.

Other factors are FirstHealth's paramedic training academy and experience working with a first-responder program to ensure prompt response times and utilizing fire departments in a more efficient manner, the recommendation says.

Brian T. Canfield, chief operating officer of FirstHealth, spoke during the public comment session of the commissioners' meeting and thanked the Advisory Committee for its recommendation.

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