Forsyth County may help foot the bill for a pediatric neonatal ambulance, which has been marked as a community need by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
During a work session earlier this week, commissioners discussed the possibility of contributing about $700,000 toward the purchase of the specialized vehicle and initial operating costs.
County Attorney Ken Jarrard explained that the local government can help pay for the ambulance, since it provides a public health and safety service.
"The county may need to get involved in order to serve this constituency, which is basically the most helpless of us all, which are the infants and children that are simply not served right now in the county," Jarrard said.
Equipment in the typical ambulance fits the emergency needs for adults, he said, but "the things that preserve the life of a human adult just don’t work with a very small child."
Funding for the vehicle could come from the fire department, Jarrard said, as well as other private donations to the health care center.
The specifics and logistics of transferring the vehicle to the recently opened Children’s Healthcare of Forsyth location could be more complicated, he said.
Commissioners voted 5-0 on Tuesday to direct Jarrard to come back with a proposal for board review.
"It’s an opportunity for us to step up and show a real commitment to quality health care in the county," said Chairman Brian Tam.
Tam, whose wife’s restaurant recently played host to a fundraiser for the ambulance, said he approached Children’s Healthcare with the possibility of government funding.
If Forsyth County contributed, it would be the first government entity to fund an ambulance for Children’s Healthcare, said Linda Cole, its vice president of ambulatory and emergency services.
Cole said the news came as a welcome surprise to the local facility, which is at The Avenue mall off Peachtree Parkway, where the ambulance would be stationed.
"We were ecstatic from the funding aspect, obviously, and the ability to have the ambulance," she said. "But we were also excited by the gesture, and more what’s behind the gesture, that the county and the government are so supportive of Children’s being here."
The pediatric neonatal ambulance would be the sixth for Children’s Healthcare in metro Atlanta, but the only one in Forsyth County, Cole said.
Several entities, such as Tam’s Backstage restaurant, have held fundraisers or planned events to contribute toward the ambulance, which typically takes infants or children from hospital to hospital.
"We describe it more as a mobile ICU," Cole said. "It has a lot of specialized equipment that a typical 911 ambulance wouldn’t have on their truck."