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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

Lawrence County Commissioners Questioned on Ambulance Coverage by Pleasant Run Twp. Fire Chief

LAWRENCE COUNTY - SEPTEMBER 27,2022 - The Lawrence County Commissioners were questioned this morning by Pleasant Run Fire Chief Darin Kinser about how they plan to address the lack of ambulance coverage in the county. (full video of this segment available below)

Kinser talked about a situation where a chest pain patient had low oxygen levels and had to wait for over an hour for an out of county ambulance to arrive and transport the patient to a hospital.

Time is a factor for favorable outcomes for patients, who are in cardiac arrest, stroke patients, and trauma patients are all at risk when it comes to a slow response time to emergencies.

" Our department goes on approximately 285 runs a year with 260 of runs being medical runs," said Kinser.

This issue is no longer those who reside in the rural parts of Lawrence County but for those who also reside in the City of Bedford as well. Bedford has two hospitals within minutes of each other but waiting for an ambulance can be delayed.

In January 2021 Bedford Police transported an seriously injured accident victim to the hospital by police care due to an extended response time from ambulance responding from Bloomington

Residents in the City of Bedford can wait just the same amount of time for ambulances from Greene, Martin, Monroe and Orange Counties to respond to emergencies in the city.

City of Bedford Police officers at times transporting patients to the hospital because of extended response times from ambulances.

Lawrence County has not entered into any contractual agreement with an ambulance service since the 1970s. The county has benefited from two hospitals and two hospital-based ambulance services to provide the service for free.

During his recent election campaign Lawrence County Commissioner Rodney Fish told voters the county is not obligated by state statue to provide a county ambulance service.

(Video of Lawrence County Commissioner president Rodney Fish telling voters they are not obligated by state statue to provide a county ambulance service - Video segment at 15:29 in the video below)

Dustin Gabhart told Kinser " We have been battling this situation non-stop, we are addressing the situation now. We are in discussions with IU Health and as far as we know Seals Ambulance Service is staying. The ambulance service makes money doing transport from one facility to another. That is the issue, we have been looking at contracts but where is the funding coming from to stop ambulance services from making transport runs," asked Gabhart.

Kinser asked whether the American Rescue Funds could be used to pay for an ambulance contract. " It would only be good for one year and the county would then have to be to come up with the funding to renew the contract," Gabhart replied.

The Lawrence County Council has created a line item in the 2023 budget should the commissioners finally decide if the Lawrence County Commissioners decide to act on the proposal.

" I have been on the county council for over the last four years, and the county council has never been approached about any contract for ambulance service in the county," said Scott Smith president of the Lawrence County Council. The Lawrence County Council voted 7-0 in favor of the measure to add a county ambulance service or contractual ambulance service.

Dustin Gabhart also serves on the 911 board which required the local volunteer fire departments to have a valid contract with the township trustees even though most local volunteer fire departments are private non-profit organizations organized to fight fires within their community.

Sheriff Mike Branham sent out requests to all township trustees asking for the up to date contracts of the Lawrence County volunteer fire departments.

However, Lawrence County 911 board does not require any of the two ambulance services in Lawrence County to have a valid contract with the county to provide 911 services. The only contract both ambulance services have been with the respective hospitals.

By Indiana statue the county government, and city government can establish their own ambulance service.

The State of Indiana does not mandate counties to provide EMS services. Greene, Martin and Jackson Counties now have their own county operated ambulance service.

Brown County pays over $500,000 to IU Lifeline Ambulance to provide 911 ambulance coverage, and Orange County pays approximately $260,000 for ambulance coverage. Both Lawrence and Monroe Counties do not have pay for any ambulance coverage, despite both having the lack of ambulance coverage. Monroe County 911 board refused to allow a private ambulance service into their 911 system several years ago, when Monroe Hospital was constructed.

Shawswick Township will be operating on January 1, 2023, as a Basic Life Support ambulance service. This comes after the inaction of county government to provide the service. At this time the county's fire departments are non-transport EMS providers who do not receive any compensation for responding to EMS calls.

In the last city election, Mayoral candidate Mike Hawkins researched the issue and found the City of Rushville was able to start its own ambulance service and generate revenue.

In Morgan County, officials decided to study the need for an ambulance service and created a tax to be able to support the operation with six ambulances providing coverage.

Lawrence County Zephyr will continue to monitor developments on this story.

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