Ambulance services will be topic of May 5 meeting
The budget and services offered by the Morgan County Rescue Service will be the central topic of a workshop meeting on May 5 among the Morgan County Commissioners, the Rescue Service and members of the Emergency Medical Services Board. That meeting is slated to start at 1:30 p.m.
Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson said she wants to take a close look at the rescue squad’s budget, including specific expenditures.
“I’d like to see some detailed budget on where the money is being spent,” she said at the April 21 commission meeting.
Sights set on ambulance fee
The Morgan County Rescue Service is supported, in large part, by a $75 ambulance fee that was instituted in 2007. Roughly $500,000 from that fee goes to the squad.
Recent discussions about the rescue squad’s policy on routine inter-facility transports have highlighted the ambulance service’s financial and staffing issues.
Some county residents have said they want the rescue squad to do transports once again – a service they dropped in 2007.
The ambulance company says offering that service would require a heftier ambulance fee on county property owners. One proposal suggested the fee would have to go up to $162 to restore interfacility transports to the county service.
The county commissioners have said they don’t support raising the $75 fee.
Rescue Service Administrative chief Kevin Duckwall said he’s looking at shifting crew schedules and cutting ambulance coverage as a way to deal with lower-than-expected revenue.
The EMS board and Rescue Service just hired Valley Credit Service to help them collect more than $101,000 in overdue ambulance fees from 1,355 residents, according to Duckwall.
The collection agency will take 30% of what they collect, said Duckwall.
More ambulance questions
Commissioner Dugan asked Duckwall if there was any truth to the rumor that if a resident took themselves to the Maryland or Virginia line, they could call an ambulance from a different jurisdiction and get their services for free.
Duckwall said it is true that Frederick County, Va. doesn’t charge for their 911 ambulance response. He said that county has a significant tax base and pays for its rescue services out of the general county budget.
Commissioner Hutchinson asked what would happen if her father, a cardiac patient, needed an ambulance and wanted to go directly to Winchester Medical Center.
“Is there a form he can sign?” she asked, inquiring how he could be taken to the hospital of his choice.
Duckwall said patients can sign a release saying they, not their insurance carrier, will pay the total cost of transport to a facility outside the county.
That form won’t guarantee the patient goes to the hospital of their choice, however.
“What do you normally do in that case? Do they usually honor the patient’s request?” Hutchinson asked.
Medical Command in Morgantown ultimately directs ambulance crews where to take patients, based on patient needs and hospital capacity, Duckwall said.
“In the state’s eyes, they are in a higher level of care at War Memorial Hospital than in the back of an ambulance,” Duckwall said.
Commission President Stacy Dugan said she wanted to invite representatives from War Memorial Hospital, Valley Health Systems, Valley Medical Transport and West Virginia Medical Command to the May 5 session.