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1 of 2 ambulances approved for EMS

HC Council wants to see hospital’s ’19 budget shortfall

Harrison County EMS is getting one of the two new ambulances it requested, along with the funds to make up for the 2018 budget shortfall. The fate of the second ambulance could be decided when council officials learn how big of a shortfall there was in 2019.

Joe Squier, the EMS manager at Harrison County Hospital, has suggested keeping his department’s ambulance fleet on a replacement schedule where four ambulances would be replaced every three years. They would purchase one ambulance every year, with one out of every three years purchasing two units.

Squier said this plan would replace ambulances when they hit 200,000 miles, which is where the vehicles start needing more repairs. Maintenance expenses totaled approximately $60,000 in 2019.

EMS proposed two ambulances totaling $485,578, which included a $3,000 discount on the second unit. However, the council voted to wait for more information.

“I would prefer to wait until we get the true cost for what the shortfall is going to be,” said Councilman Kyle Nix.

Nix made a motion to table the purchase and got the support from four other council members. Councilman Brad Wiseman did not vote, and Councilwoman Jennie Capelle voted against the motion.

During discussion the last few weeks, the council approved $420,202 to cover the 2018 budget shortfall and is waiting to know how much money the department needs for any 2019 budget shortfall.

“(2016) and (2017) were better years, but it is comparable to what 2015, 2014, 2013 was with similar amounts to that,” said Chuck Wiley, the chief financial officer at Harrison County Hospital.

The 2019 numbers are expected to be in this spring, according to Wiley.

The expenses increased with two additional employees put on during peak hours runs take place, according to Squier. Councilor Gary Byrne said the two additional workers appeared to be the source of the extra expenses.

“It does look like (2019) is looking better than those numbers,” Wiley said.

Byrne said he looked at the number of runs made and the amount collected, saying that while the runs went out, the amount collected stayed close to the same.

Wiley said what is collected depends on the insurance billed.

The hospital’s CEO, Steve Taylor, said the county and the hospital have an agreement for the county to cover EMS operations.

“No hospital revenues will be used towards subsidy of the ambulance service,” Taylor said.

Donnie Hussung, who chairs the county council, said if the county didn’t fund EMS, the operation would become a private service which could affect the quality of service.

The council did approve the purchase of one ambulance during its Jan. 27 meeting, for $244,289 with casino revenue.

It will take approximately seven months for the new ambulance to be built and brought to Harrison County to be added to the fleet.