County approves purchase of four ventilators for Morgan County EMS

by Kate Shunney

Morgan County Commissioners voted 3-0 to spend $157,635 for four ventilators for ambulances at the request of Morgan County EMS on Wednesday, July 3.

Officials with Morgan County EMS, Inc., which is the private company the county uses to provide 24/7 ambulance service in Morgan County, approached the commission with the request, saying the devices would provide better emergency care for residents suffering respiratory issues until the patients could reach a hospital.

Mike Jenkins told commissioners the state had just approved the use of ventilators on ambulances.

“It’s a big deal,” he told county officials.

Jenkins explained that the respiratory equipment used on ambulances now is “not ideal” for all patients, “but it’s all we have.”

“When we get them to the hospital and get them on ventilators, you’ll see them turn around,” Jenkins said.

He said current devices are largely manual – needing one EMS responder to deliver air to a patient in distress – and can deliver too much air in some cases.

“For whatever reason, studies are finding that too much air can be bad for a patient. Ventilators can measure that accurately and reliably does it,” said Jenkins.

Ventilators cost $16,500 each. Morgan County EMS received a price of $157,635 for four units, plus their annual service and software, for a period of 10 years.

“It’s a lot of money and if we didn’t have ARPA money, we couldn’t consider it,” said Commissioner Joel Tuttle, referring to federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Commissioner Bill Clark said the size of the purchase may require the county or Morgan County EMS to put out a request for proposals or quotes. Jenkins said the approved ventilators only come from one company, and he has a “sole source” letter to verify that.

Following the 3-0 vote for the purchase, commissioners considered a question from The Morgan Messenger about which entity would be the owners of the ventilators, since Morgan County EMS is a contractor for the county whose contract would be up for reconsideration in five years.

Commissioners said they would discuss the ownership of the ventilators in conjunction with the purchase.