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In an attempt to stem the tide of red ink in the Emergency Medical Services budget, Adams Health Network (AHN) trustees voted to approve a proposal put forth by hospital administrators that will reduce the number of ambulances staffed in Adams County.
Executive Director Marvin L. Baird told trustees at their monthly meeting Wednesday night that the EMS budget will lose approximately $430,000 this year, with the main culprit of that loss coming from Medicare reimbursements to the hospital for EMS runs being drastically reduced. Baird said the new proposal will be to have one vehicle staffed with paramedics in Berne and Decatur. Currently, a second vehicle is staffed in Decatur that is on call when one of the two main vehicles is called out on a run or handles transports to nursing homes, residences, etc.
The second ambulance in Decatur will be the unit that will not be funded starting January 1. Baird said roughly 25 percent of EMS runs are transfers which receive little reimbursement from Medicare or private insurance. To handle that portion of runs formerly handled by EMS units, the hospital will have a greater utilization of its WAVE van, which can be used to transport wheelchair or ambulatory patients who can sit up.
Patients who cannot sit up will continue to be transferred by regular ambulance units.
Baird estimated the process of going to just two staffed ambulances will save the hospital about $236,000.
The increased use of the WAVE van will see it staffed Monday through Friday by a driver from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. with an on-call driver for the weekends. Baird said the current WAVE van has about 250,000 miles on it so hospital officials will be looking for a good used model with maybe 50,000 miles or so.
Baird said he knows there will be some repercussions from having to cut the number of EMS vehicles, but pointed out that Adams County and Wells County EMS have a reciprocal agreement to provide coverage for the other county if all units are in service.
He said an analysis of records of EMS runs last year show all three Adams County vehicles were in service at the same time on only nine occasions. Continuing to suffer a massive deficit like the one EMS has incurred "is like building a new church just for Easter Sunday. It just can't be done," Baird said.
In another way to cut the EMS budget, Baird said another paramedic will be hired to cover PTO (paid time off) accrued by the current full-time paramedics. He said that currently most PTO time such as vacation, sick days, holidays, etc. cause the hospital to pay another paramedic time and a half to cover those hours and that hiring an extra person will cut that expense significantly by paying regular wages instead of overtime pay.
The hospital currently receives over $400,000 from the county commissioners to assist in operating EMS, with a portion of that money going to assist in buying new ambulances when needed. With the downturn in the economy, commissioners were not able to up that figure to assist with the $430,000 shortfall.