Rural/Metro says performance concerns are unfounded; Knox County mayor still concerned

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – After Knox County’s purchasing director highlighted possible performance problems with Rural/Metro in a letter to the ambulance service, both Rural/Metro and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett are addressing concerns.

The letter has to do with how many ambulances Rural/Metro has available to handle emergency calls around the county and asks for an explanation about performance concerns, but Rural/Metro said the claims are false.

The county repeatedly said the letter was supposed to serve as a heads up that there are possible issues with Rural/Metro’s performance that need to be addressed, but Rural/Metro’s Community Relations Director Tom Milton says they were shocked when they got the letter.

Previous story: Knox County raises concerns about Rural/Metro ambulance service

The company has disputed the listed problems because the June numbers that say Rural/Metro didn’t meet its requirement of responding to calls within 10 minutes at least 90 percent of the time were preliminary.

“We don’t understand, and this is again why we were caught off guard, that on July 1, we had a certified letter sent to us telling us that the log data that came off the CAD on June 30 shows that we’re in 89.1 percent when we haven’t even met to do the review or look at allowances or exceptions,” said Milton.

Mayor Burchett maintains that the response times are concerning, adding that the ambulance service deals with taxpayer dollars.

“Anything dealing with public safety and I’m very concerned,” he said. “We’re supposed to be asking those questions. As the chief financial officer of the county, that’s what we should be doing.”

The Knox County Health Department told WATE 6 On Your Side that Rural/Metro has said it’s having trouble filling shifts. There are 23 job openings, but the ambulance service says it’s not a problem.

“We’re hiring, sure. Are we covering shifts? Absolutely,” said Milton.

Rural/Metro said it has gone back through its records for the last five years and the company has never dipped below the 90 percent 10 minute response time requirement, adding that official response time numbers will be out for the month of June soon.

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