Brother, can you spare an ambulance?

Published 11:50 pm Friday, February 13, 2009

In the 1980s, the group Simply Red had a hit single called “Money’s Too Tight to Mention.” Now, a quarter-century later, those words certainly ring true in almost every facet of our lives.

Frankly, it’s a bad time to go looking for money for anything, even something as necessary and vital as an ambulance service. Just as he did last October, Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital chief executive officer Mike Marshall spoke with the mayors of Demopolis and Linden and with members of the Marengo County Commission of the need for a subsidy to keep the Tombigbee Emergency Medical Service going at the hospital.

The cities’ councils and the commission all declined to provide a subsidy in October, and four months later, the financial situation is even more dire. Demopolis just had its city department heads trim 15 percent out of their budgets, and another trimming may be on the horizon. Linden and Marengo County are also in the same situation financially, having to cling to every dollar they can and cutting lower-priority items to stay within their budgets.

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Unless the hospital or the ambulance service can find some other means of financing TEMS, it may fall victim to the economy. Marshall said that grants would not be available, and even if they were, it would be for one year only, a stopgap measure rather than a cure. President Obama’s economic stimulus plan also is not a viable option in seeking funding.

The handwriting appears to be on the wall for the TEMS ambulance service as a hospital-funded entity. If the cities and county again deny the hospital a subsidy, TEMS could make a bid as an independent ambulance service if it wants to stay in Demopolis. It’s just a bad time to look for money, as a lot of entries in ledgers these days is simply red.