Blount County is switching ambulance contracts after experiencing ongoing delays in emergency response time.

According to reports, Blount County Sheriff Mark Moon has struggled to get ambulances to respond to calls due to EMT staffing shortages.

Now the Blount County 911 board has voted to switch ambulance companies.

Moon told WBRC his department had issues with ambulances not responding when called, which jeopardized people's lives, especially those with mental health issues such as suicidal thoughts. 

He said the new company will provide more ambulances, offer higher pay and will be hiring EMTs from the county's current ambulance service due to their existing knowledge of the area. 

The EMT shortage is nothing new.

In February, three fire chiefs in the Birmingham area told 1819 News about the issue. 

Chief Gene Coleman of the Center Point Fire Department said EMT class sizes are shrinking. Chief Buddy Wilks of the Cahaba Valley Fire Department said low pay and extensive training for EMTs had deterred quality candidates from pursuing the job. 

Industry leaders estimated there was a 30% EMT shortage throughout the state. 

In August, the city of Springville considered purchasing its own ambulance after some citizens claimed they waited for hours for emergency services. Springville Fire Chief Richard Harvey told 1819 News the city sometimes has no choice but to wait for ambulances to travel from Jefferson or Shelby counties.

Despite the widespread shortage, Moon told the media he was optimistic.

The new ambulance service will go into effect on September 30.

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