Metro Ambulance always ready to roll

By By William F. West / community editor
Dec. 15, 2002
Metro Ambulance Director Clayton Cobler says people don't realize what he and his crews find after responding to emergency calls.
It's all too often scenes of cruelty, hate, tragedy and violence.
Unfortunately, Cobler said, when people call for an ambulance, the situation is not good.
The beginning
Metro Ambulance opened for business in 1980, after the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County joined to form an ambulance district. The decision was in response to a private company having abruptly withdrawn its service.
Cobler, Metro's fourth director, has been with the ambulance service since its beginnings.
Metro started with five employees and two ambulances handling about 300 runs a year. It has grown to 40 full-time employees, 55 part-time employees and 10 ambulances. Crews go on about 17,000 runs a year.
The reason for the increase resulted from Metro's change from an emergency service to one that also carries nursing home residents and handicapped persons to doctors' offices.
Federal funds help reimburse such non-emergency runs, which today comprise about 85 to 90 percent of Metro's business.
Cobler said the changes date back about eight years, after the city decided to withdraw its support.
Changes made
A Connecticut-based consultant, Bob Holsworth, recommended a revamping and also set a two-year time frame for Metro to become self-supportive. "And we did that in two months," Cobler said.
Cobler is aided by employees such as June Gordon, an office supervisor. A Newton resident and former co-operator of an ambulance service there, she joined Metro eight years ago because she continues to enjoy helping others.
Johnny Williamson is in his 17th year with Metro. At 46, he's operations manager at Metro but also continues to work as a paramedic.
Williamson and other paramedics said the job continues to be addictive in the emergency side of the business.
Tammy Sheffield, 38, a paramedic in her 10th year with Metro, appreciates the thanks she gets from those she helps in the community.
Sheffield said she's supposed to be receiving an apple cake Christmas Eve from a lady who called for help after falling down at home.