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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

Lawrence County Council Adds Line Item for Ambulance Coverage

LAWRENCE COUNTY - SEPTEMBER 20, 2022 - Lawrence County Council members added a line item in the 2023 Budget for a ambulance service. With the closing of St. Vincent Dunn Hospital and Seals Ambulance Service being the contracted ambulance service, the hospital will be closing on December 16th.

Lawrence County Council president Scott Smith made the motion with Julie Heweston seconding the motion in a 6-0 vote.

To date the Lawrence County Commissioners have not acted on providing a contracted 911 ambulance service. Lawrence County has not had a contracted ambulance provider since the 1970s. The hospital-based ambulance services have provided 911 service free of charge to the county.

Over the last eight years, pre- COVID the county has lacked ambulance coverage with ambulances coming from neighboring counties providing ambulances.

With the COVID-19 pandemic the emergency calls have flooded the 911 system and transfers by the county's four ambulances were routinely transferring patients to out of county hospitals. This would leave those ambulances out of service and unavailable for several hours for Lawrence County 911 calls.

40-minute response times for ambulances to arrive in Lawrence County is now common

Several of the county volunteer fire departments, and City of Bedford Fire Department waited several minutes for ambulances to arrive, some with more than 40-minute response times.

Lawrence County Commissioners did not provide any COVID-19 relief funding to the county's ten volunteer fire departments, and the only ambulance service to receive those funds was the Seals Ambulance Service. The volunteer fire departments were dispatched to numerous emergency medical calls without any compensation from Lawrence County officials.

The money from COVID Funding from the federal government; went for stipends for county employees, local non-profits, and school corporations, who many already received compensation from the federal government directly.

Under Indiana Code IC 16-31-5-1 is a provision that gives both Lawrence County, or City of Bedford or City of Mitchell to start their own ambulance service.

Shawswick and Guthrie Fire Territory will start their own ambulance coverage beginning on January 1, 2023, but only as a Basic Life Support Service.

At this time the Lawrence County Commissioners have not responded to the community concerns on either contracting the ambulance service out by a bid process or starting its own ambulance service like Greene, Jackson and Martin Counties. Orange County now contracts with IU Lifeline to provide EMS coverage. Lawrence and Monroe Counties does not have a contract with any ambulance service to provide 911 service. However, both Lawrence and Monroe County have added IU Lifeline to their 911 ambulance dispatch.

The Lawrence County 911 requires local volunteer fire departments to have valid contracts in order to be dispatched to fire and EMS calls in their response areas, however this is no requirement for any ambulance service to have a contract with Lawrence County government to provide ambulance coverage.

The only contract IU Health Lifeline Ambulance and Seals Ambulance service have been with the respective hospitals.

Lawrence County Commissioners have received a $8.8 Million American Rescue Funds Act from the federal government with $4.4 Million going to expand broadband services to Lawrence County. None of the that money have been directed to public safety for ambulance coverage or reimbursing the volunteer fire departments for their COVID pandemic emergency medical responses.

Lawrence County Zephyr will monitor the developments of this story.

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