County looking at ways to save on ambulance service

Published 8:30 am Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Steps are being taken to reduce the operating deficit in Decatur County’s Emergency Medical Services department.

During last Tuesday night’s Decatur County Board of Commissioner’s meeting, County Administrator Gary Breedlove sought permission to reduce the operating hours of one of the three county-owned ambulances.

Currently, the county operates three ambulances 24-hours per day. Breedlove plans to reduce one of the shifts to 16-hours per day on an 8 a.m.-midnight shift. The remaining two ambulances would be in service 24-hours per day.

Email newsletter signup

“If there are any needs beyond two trucks during those time periods, then the fire department always has one EMT on shift that would be the next responder,” said Breedlove.

That change in scheduling would save an estimated $60,000 per year according to Breedlove.

The 2013-2014 county budget projects incoming revenues of $750,000 and expenses of $1,196,205 in the ambulance and EMS department, resulting in an operating deficit of $448,125. The county’s fiscal year 2012 audit, the most recent audit available, shows the EMS had an operating deficit of $483,853 for the year ending June 30, 2012.

However, Breedlove indicated that with increased collected revenues to the $900,000 level and the savings created with the scheduling change, the deficit would decrease to roughly $250,000.

The revenues for the ambulance service come from fees charged to Decatur County residents who use the ambulance for emergency response and transport.

Several meetings ago, the commissioners voted unanimously to send out Request for Proposals (RFP) for private companies to operate the county’s ambulance service. Although nothing official has been presented to the county from any private company, Breedlove said a cost of $440,000 has been suggested.

“The suggested amount for the same service, two 24s and a 16, we would have to pay a contractor $440,000. Then you would add into that how you would negotiate facilities, utilities, and various miscellaneous items,” said Breedlove.

Commissioner Oliver Sellers offered that the county could consider offering non-emergency transport as a way to increase revenues.

“We need to seriously look at non-emergency transport because they are paying customers and if the private ambulance companies can do it, we need to look at it. They are paying customers, not like the 911 calls,” said Sellers.

“There are significant number of ways, as a community, we need to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our EMS, and it’s not much to do with EMS. It’s to do with people who call and say ‘come and get me, I have a headache or I have a stomach ache’ or some people who will come out of the emergency room because they are tired of waiting and call 911 to get an ambulance so they can get in sooner,” Breedlove responded.

Without taking a vote, the commissioners gave Breedlove permission to make the change in reducing the hours of operation of one of the county’s ambulances effective September 1.