• Last modified 584 days ago (Dec. 15, 2022)


Transfer policy angers hospitals

Staff writer

Months after contention over transferring patients from local hospitals to larger hospitals began, county commissioners approved a patient transfer policy Monday.

The new policy, more stringent than the existing one, was greeted with anger Tuesday by executives at St. Luke and Hillsboro Community hospitals.

The policy charges hospitals for transfers and states that transfers cannot take ambulances away from providing in-county services.

“Transfers are not considered our primary purpose or function and will be considered a discretionary service, subordinate to our primary function of delivering emergency service,” the policy states.

While the county will make every effort to provide transfers, the distance will not exceed 60 miles from 190th and Nighthawk Rds.

The county’s two ambulances capable of advanced life support will not be sent out of the county at the same time.

When only a single advanced ambulance is available, transfers will be declined unless the patient needs immediate life-saving surgery.

Transfer fees will be billed to hospitals instead of patients.

Transfers between St. Luke and Hillsboro Community will be billed at $800 a round trip.

Transfers within 40 miles, including hospitals in Newton, McPherson, El Dorado, Moundridge, Herington, Council Grove, and Lindsborg will be billed at $1,500.

Transfers to more distant hospitals in Wichita, Andover, Derby, Salina, Hutchinson, Emporia, Fort Riley, Salina, Eureka, Lyons, and Abilene will be billed at $2,000.

When a local hospital requests assistance from ambulance attendants, the hospital will be billed $700. If the ambulance crew remains more than two hours, an additional fee of $100 an hour will be charged.

If an ambulance crew helps transport a flight crew between an airport and a hospital, the hospital will be billed $200.

“No one from the county has contacted St. Luke regarding this policy,” St. Luke chief executive Jeremy Ensey said.

Wrangling between the ambulance service and county hospitals began in May, after the ambulance service, citing a 2019 transfer policy decided not to immediately transfer a patient whose condition was not considered critical.

Hospital representatives met with commissioners and ambulance officials three times and sent a letter to commissioners.

“I believe most of the points and concerns in our letters remain valid,” Ensey said.

In the letter, the executives said transfers were an essential part of small hospitals’ role in health care and that restriction on transfers would make it more difficult for residents to get specialized or higher care. They also contended that such policies don’t comply with “the spirit or the letter of applicable federal law.”

St. Luke’s Overland Park lawyer, Alex Schulte, warned the county that the hospital did not accept the county’s policy and asked for consultation.

Last modified Dec. 15, 2022