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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

Lawrence and Orange Counties considered part of the ambulance desert in Indiana

Updated: Mar 2

INDIANAPOLIS - FEBRUARY 19, 2024 - Lawrence County is not only considered a Woman's Health care desert, but now considered a ambulance desert by the State of Indiana.



Photo: The City of Mitchell use to have an ambulance stationed in the city but no longer has the service. The new fire territory will hopefully bring a dedicated ambulance to the city


An ambulance desert is a populated census block with its geographic center outside of a 25 minute ambulance service area according to Rural Health Research & Policy Centers. The causes could range from the number of ambulances available to the proximately of ambulance stations.


In the state of Indiana, 93,807 or 1.4% of people are living in an ambulance desert. This percentage considerably jumps when considering residents living in rural communities, as 56,974 or 3.9% are impacted. The most impacted counties of Indiana are Orange, Lawrence, Brown, and Clay with partial impact on Harrison, Posey, Newton, LaGrange, and Fulton counties. The issue faced by those in ambulance deserts is whether or not the ambulance will make it in time, and many doctors say the first hour, known as the “golden hour,” after trauma is crucial.


In Lawrence County residents was forced to wait on out of county ambulances, with at one accident scene over 45 minutes before an ambulance arrived.


Lawrence County EMA director Valarie Luchuaer recently reported there was improvements in ambulance coverage.




The City of Mitchell who had an ambulance station within the city, now no longer has that service available taking about 15-20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.


" The ambulance service we do not have here. I had a heart attack recently, and Thank God for the EMT's we have here in Mitchell. I do not know how long it took for ambulance to get to my house. But then I was taken to IU Health Bedford Hospital and because there was no ambulance available; it took over three hours to get transported to IU Health Bloomington. And then was transported by helicopter to Indianapolis," said Mitchell City Council member George James.



Lawrence County use to have five ambulances available when the two hospitals Dunn Memorial Hospital with three ambulances and Bedford Regional Medical Center with two ambulances where in service.


Photo: An IU Ambulance involved in a traffic accident in 2023 after a drunk driver struck the IU Health Ambulance which was not on an emergency call


Dunn Memorial Hospital was sold to St. Vincent Hospital and private services which included AMR and Seals was contacted to provide ambulance coverage to the hospital and when available 911 services to the county.


After St. Vincent Hospital closed so did the number of ambulances available.


When ambulances were sent on patient transfers to hospitals in Bloomington and Indianapolis or provide 911 ambulance coverage to Monroe County this left the county without an 911 dedicated ambulance for several hours.


In Monroe County with a population of 95,000 the IU Lifeline Ambulance over the last ten years could not keep up with the demand on their EMS system. They had to dispatch ambulances from other counties to keep up with the number of ambulance calls.



In Lawrence County, Shawswick and Guthrie Townships started a fire territory to staff an ambulance and fire engine with 3 firefighters and EMT's which went into service in 2023.


The budget for the two townships is $859,000 in 2024.


This week a public hearing on Wednesday at the Mitchell Community Center Mitchel residents along with Marion Township and Spice Valley Township will decide on the newest fire territory and bring a dedicated ambulance to residents south of the White River.


The budget for the fire territory is estimated at $900,000.


In 2023, the Lawrence County Commissioners awarded a ambulance contract to IU Lifeline to provide three ambulances to the county in the amount of $1.5 million for the life of the contract


The county agreed to pay $300,000 from April 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023 with an annual stipend of $400,000 in years 2024, 2025, 2026 with the payments made biannually on June 30th and December 31 of each contracted year.


In Orange County, a contract of about $260,000 was awarded to IU Lifeline to provide two ambulances to the county. The newly created Springs Valley Fire Territory provides a back-up ambulance to French Lick and West Baden.





Last Wednesday, Indiana legislatures had a lengthy discussion on the matter.


The state has lost hundreds of paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and ambulances since 2018 — with multiple independent emergency medical services (EMS) providers shutting down — even as 911 calls climb.


EMS providers say insurance stinginess is complicating their financial stability and forcing them to hand big bills to unwitting Hoosiers. They’re turning to legislation to force health plans to pay out-of-network providers for transports.


Businesses, however, say House Bill 1385 would disproportionately affect small and medium employers, forcing them to pass costs along to staff and customers.


The legislation would require health plan operators to pay out-of-network ambulance service at a rate set by the county or municipality in which the transport started. If there is no local rate, plan operators would pay 400 percent of the published Medicare base rate or the ambulance providers billed charges whichever is less.


In 2023 the Medicare rate was about $266 with a varying mileage.


Experts and lawmakers alike pointed fingers aplenty during nearly two hours of discussion Wednesday.


The committee voted 7-1 to move the bill forward to the Indiana Senate.


Hoosiers throughout Indiana are getting hit with " unbelievable claims" of $10,000 or more from ambulance bills.


Indiana data shows that the state lost 300 paramedics,1,000 EMT's 200 ambulances and several providers between 2008 and 2021.


The run volume increased 66 percent or by 1.25 million runs in the State of Indiana.


For breaking news and information go to lczephyr.org or like/follow the Lawrence County Zephyr Facebook page.


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