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Hall fire chief, commissioner to address Tuesday meeting about ambulance cutbacks
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Hall County Fire Services Chief Jeff Hood and county Commissioner Scott Gibbs have accepted invitations to attend a meeting in Gillsville Tuesday night to discuss plans to cut three ambulance units from mostly rural areas — including Gillsville — and move personnel to busier stations in the next month.

The meeting will be held in conjunction with the regularly scheduled Gillsville City Council meeting set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Gillsville City Park Community Building and is open to the public.

Hood and Gibbs confirmed to The Times Sunday afternoon they plan to attend the meeting. Gibbs said Hood will make a presentation about the plan and likely answer questions.

Gillsville Mayor Larry Poole said Sunday the council will probably have an “abbreviated meeting” and “let this be the bulk of the meeting because it will sure take a lot more time than what our meetings normally take.”

Gillsville City Council Meeting

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Gillsville City Park Community Building, 7864 County Line Road, Gillsville

More info: 770-869-3838

Deputy Fire Chief Mark Arnold told The Times last week that the ambulance units are moving away from Station 11 on Bark Camp Road in Murrayville, Station 10 on Ga. 52 in Gillsville and Station 9 on Poplar Springs Road.

Paramedics will remain on duty in all of the areas losing an ambulance, which the county argues will maintain the same level of emergency medical care in rural Hall.

The county plans to put paramedics on the fire engine in these areas and make all fire service vehicles equipped with medical equipment including cardiac monitors, EKGs, chest compression devices and pharmaceuticals.

The plan was vetted by the Hall County Board of Commissioners in a series of private meetings over the past month.

Gibbs, who represents the communities covered by Stations 9 and 10, said Sunday he “would never ever support anything that I thought would jeopardize” services for residents.

“This new methodology that the chief came to us with is every vehicle in the county is a life-saving vehicle,” Gibbs said. “People are under the assumption that the ambulance saves your life. That’s the furthest thing from the truth. The paramedic, the drugs and the equipment is what saves your life ...”

Poole said he is concerned about the plan based on what he knows so far. He said he is especially concerned  that “several stations, including ours, are losing the ambulances.”

“I guess I’d have to say we’ve been kind of blindsided by that,” Poole said Sunday afternoon. “I went back and read some of the information on that and found what they’re going to do is put a paramedic on a firetruck.

“To say, as I understand as has been said by the fire department, that it won’t take away from emergency response or our safety, I can’t understand how anybody can say that if you’re moving ambulances much farther away,” Poole added. “The firetruck isn’t going to transport somebody. All they can do is come and they have the paramedic and all the equipment and all they can do is just work with the person until the ambulance gets there. So there’s no doubt it’s deteriorating our emergency services, and I’m really concerned about that.”

Gibbs said he plans to go to the meeting to listen and let Hood explain the plan and why he has recommended it.

“There’s a reason why he is the chief,” Gibbs said of Hood. “He has all (kinds) of formal education in leading a fire department. I put a lot of faith in the guy; he’s done a good job of helping us modernize that place. He hasn’t let me down yet. He hasn’t led me down the wrong path. I don’t think he would do that. I think when people listen to it, they will appreciate it.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story had the wrong location for the meeting.