Fiscal Court approves $50,000 more funding to ambulance district

Will continue working with ambulance district to look at the financial problem

District 4 Magistrate Rick Mineer made a motion early in the Ambulance District Funding Discussion item on the Pendleton County Fiscal Court agenda for their June 25 regularly scheduled meeting to provide an additional $50,000 of funding to help the district meet payroll.

"The $50,000 from the court will stabilize it and then we can look at what they need to do for 2019," he told the court.

Judge David Fields had begun the discussion by telling the court that he and Mineer had met with two members of the Pendleton County Ambulance District Board on Saturday. From the meeting, the chair, Dale Beighle, had indicated they needed $150,000 to get to November.

Fields indicated that the subcommittee would need to continue to look at the issue.

District 2 Magistrate Josh Plummer asked where does this put them come August 1. Mineer indicated he was told that they have funds coming in via reimbursements.

District 3 Magistrate Darrin Gregg asked if the ambulance services will be shutting down one ambulance from Advanced Life Support to Basic Life Support on July 1.

Fields replied, "We don't know what they are doing."

Plummer seconded Mineer's motion and it passed 3-1. Mineer, Plummer, and District 1 Magistrate Alan Whaley voted yea with Gregg voting Nay.

Gregg, subsequently, made a motion that the 2019-20 budget passed at the last regularly scheduled Fiscal Court meeting be amended. His motion would redirect funds that were designated to Harrison Memorial Hospital Urgent Care and AirEvac to the ambulance.

"The $50,000 for AirEvac and $50,000 for Harrison Memorial Hospital Urgent Care would bring the funding to the Pendleton County Ambulance District up to $268,000. That would still leave them $15,000 short but we can revisit that in January 2020," said Gregg.

He pointed out that the ambulance services did 1,700-1,800 runs last year and projected to do 2,000 runs this year. He indicated that the AirEvac did 40-some runs last year. The ambulance services needed it more. Fields corrected that AirEvac did 52 runs last year.

Gregg further said, "If ambulance does what is saying is going to happen, I feel it would be easier to draw back those two than what we have with the ambulance services. What we have is topnotch."

The motion did not receive a second and died for want of support.

Mineer who was on the subcommittee meeting with the members of the ambulance board said, "I think everyone believes the ambulance personnel is topnotch. Where is the money going to come from is the question....We need to be strategic going forward. We need to give the board time to look at it. We are going to have to revisit it."

Plummer echoed the point that the workers for the ambulance services has 100 percent their confidence but added, "This is the second year of financial problems. I want to see actions that this not happening again. They need $150,000 and $50,000 is in place. Where is the other $100,000 going to come from. We are never going to let the worse case scenario happened."

It offered that an aircare ride is $15,000-20,000 but was quickly corrected by the ambulance personnel listening in the audience that it was $30,000. He quickly showed that for the $50,000 the fiscal court pays for AirEvac services translates to a savings of $1.5 million for county residents. ($30,000 X 50 runs = $1.5 million)

Audience member Curtis Orme asked why the court is not looking to raise taxes to solve the problem. "People are losing their job and not coming back," he said.

Plummer said, "This has been a problem for 24 months and just now being addressed."

Mineer added they cannot keep throwing money at the problem. He had previously pointed out that the ambulance budget is growing at a faster rate than the county tax base is.

"The budget is going up $40-50,000 per year without giving the workers a raise," said Mineer who added that is was unfair to ask them to continue to work their jobs without a raise.

An unindentified member of the audience said, "We have a very good group of paramedics and EMT's that work together. We are all going job hunting. You cannot continue to hold us hostage by letting this go as long as you have."

Mineer explained that reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid is a problem. One costs $1,000 per run and the reimbursement is $150. The other is $800 per run and $84 is reimbursed and that 60 percent of the runs are in those categories.

Fields said "We passed the budget and it guaranteed the regular funding. We are now in the process of working with the board and have had one meeting. We have to answer to the county about What's going on? How it's going on? We have to have reasons if we raise taxes."

New Ambulance Board member Cindy Brown asked that they give the new board members a chance. "We need to meet with the Fiscal Court to work together to see what to do."

At the end of the meeting, it was unclear on how the additional $50,000 in funding would affect the planned July schedule that would call for 24 12-hour shifts to only have one ambulance on duty.

The entire meeting can be viewed HERE. The ambulance discussion is approximately 30 minutes into the video. If the link is not working, check for the video under Videos on the Falmouth Outlook home page.