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  • Last modified 52 days ago (Aug. 4, 2022)

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Short-staffed ambulances to charge hospitals

Staff writer

Medical facilities that summon county ambulance crews to transfer patients or perform medical procedures soon will be charged.

In the past, patients have been billed for transfers, at a much higher charge than what interim ambulance director Chuck Kenney suggested to county commissioners Friday.

Under federal regulations, a hospital is responsible for the cost of transferring a patient to another facility, but ambulance services routinely bill the patients instead.

Final charges for both services have not yet been set. Kenney will bring commissioners a fee recommendation Monday. But commissioners voted unanimously to begin charging facilities for help with procedures and cast a split 3-2 to charge transfers. Commissioners Kent Becker and Randy Dallke were opposed.

With one emergency medical technician having been terminated and six resignations on his desk, Kenney said the county would be able to staff only one ambulance instead of its current two full-time ambulances in the immediate future.

He does, however, have nine applicants.

The county will have to focus on recruiting personnel to fill empty and soon-to-be-empty positions before it will be able to return to staffing two advanced medical service ambulances, he said.

According to Kenney, the county needs to increase wages and benefits to recruit more people.

“It comes down to we’re seriously underpaid,” he said. “We’re grossly underpaid. Everyone else is $19 to $20 per hour.”

Starting pay for EMTs is $12.64 an hour and starting pay for paramedics is $16.13 an hour.

Kenney said people leaving were taking other jobs paying $20 to $25 per hour.

“That word has spread through a lot of employees,” he said. “I think the conversation now is whether Marion County EMS is going to exist.”

He also suggested adding benefits, including vacation time being available immediately, larger insurance payments, and tuition reimbursement.

Minimum staffing requirements are two paramedics and three technicians per day.

Becker said he had heard a company that offered traveling paramedics. Kenney said the cost for them was $45 an hour.

“Unfortunately, what has happened in the medical world is that everyone has gone up in their pay,” Kenney said. “As things change, we’re going to have to improve our pay.”

Commissioner David Crofoot said that in the last 24 months, prices had increased 25%.

“We need to throw out the wage package and increase 20%,” he said.

Former director Travis Parmley said: “If we can made the wage close, I think you’re going to attract those people from urban counties who want better interaction with patients and serious calls.”

Becker asked that could be provided without “killing the taxpayers.”

Becker said he would like to bring in accountant Scot Lloyd to see whether higher pay is justified.

Becker said the county’s transfer policy that limits transfers to a 60-mile radius should be struck.

Kenney said if the county did so, it should be changed to transfers “as warranted.”

Becker asked whether county hospitals had been approached about being billed directly for transfers.

“The answer is, not yet,” Kenney said

Becker said the idea needed to be sold to the hospitals.

Last modified Aug. 4, 2022

 

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