In the early 1980’s a person had a greater statistical likelihood of survival after being wounded in Vietnam than they did being injured on the city streets in the United States. Just think about that statistic, and what it meant to people of that time. It is inconceivable that our injured loved one’s chance of survival was so inexcusably low simply because emergency medical services were not a priority. Unbelievably no one took the time to question why, or ask what could be done to change it. It was just accepted as the way things were.
Unfortunately, the comfort we can feel today in central Arkansas with the knowledge that we are blessed with one of the finest ambulance services and trauma networks anywhere, was not always merited. Prior to the early 1980’s, before the birth of MEMS, there were two ambulance services that covered the metropolitan Little Rock area. Somewhere along the line, the competition between those companies rose to a destructive level. At one point two medics and a dispatcher were fired for calling for a helicopter for a critical patient. The owner considered the call as taking revenue from the ground ambulance service.
Things continued to spiral downward until eventually, Memorial Day weekend of 1984 the EMT’s and Paramedics went on strike, leaving the city of Little Rock and surrounding communities without coverage of an ambulance service. With borrowed ambulances from surrounding communities and volunteers of the striking EMT’s and paramedics, they were able to cover the city and MEMS was born. David Jones, a prominent civic leader, became a vocal proponent for change and led the efforts to bring MEMS to a reality. Given that MEMS was a new organization with no business history or established income, MEMS needed collateral to finance the initial fleet purchase. When Mr. Jones appeared before City Council to request the city underwrite the loan the Mayor asked, "Mr. Jones, are you telling us that we need to hock one of the fire departments new fire engines?". Mr. Jones famously replied, "No sir, you're going to have to hock them both." They did, and we have never looked back.