ETSB discusses ambulance issue

Rushed efforts to get a second ambulance service available for Fayette County early last week and a way to prevent that in the future were discussed at length last Thursday evening.
That discussion came during a regular meeting of the county’s Emergency Telephone Systems Board, which is charged with seeing that ambulances are dispatched on 911 calls.
Kevin Jenne, the county’s 911 coordinator, said that he was notified early last Tuesday morning that Vandalia Area Ambulance and Altamont Ambulance shut down their business.
Jenne said that he contacted Fayette County Hospital about the issue and then contacted Rural Med, an ambulance service specializing in medical transports, and it agreed to bring in an Advanced Life Support ambulance to help cover 911 calls.
Amy Schaal of FCH said that she met with Vandalia Police Chief Jeff Ray, Fayette County Sheriff Chris Smith and a Rural Med representative to “set up a plan to have two ALS rigs running.”
Ethan Bouser of Rural Med in Farina said that they “will have at least one truck here until I hear different.”
Ray said that the ETSB has no binding agreement with an ambulance service to ensure that the county is being covered with ambulance service at all times.
“Had they (Rural Med) not stepped in, we would have been in a real bind,” Ray said.
The police chief said that he would like to see, as discussed during the meeting with the sheriff, FCH and Rural Med, the formation of a committee as the first step in drafting an ordinance governing contracts with ambulance services to help prevent an instance like the one last week.
That committee, Ray suggested, would be made up of eight to 10 emergency medical providers, and would perform research that would include looking at contracts with ambulance services in other counties. That committee would ask the county board for approval of such an ordinance.
Ray said the process should include Fayette County government, but Jeff Beckman, the county board chairman and board representative on the ETSB Board, said he had spoken with Fayette County State’s Attorney Joshua Morrison on this topic, and said, “we aren’t interested in any kind of agreement,” that Morrison advised against it.
“The county’s view is, we just don’t want to get involved,” Beckman said.
Jenny Waggoner, also a county board member, said that she had talked with Greg Starnes, FCH chief executive officer, and Starnes proposed, as an alternative to an ordinance, having the hospital contract out the ambulance service and have that contract include standards for the service provided.
Ray and Schaal said they believe that the county should, indeed, be involved in such an issue.
Ray said, “You guys, as a county board, have a responsibility to the citizens of Fayette County that you are sweeping away because you don’t want to get involved.”
Waggoner said, “It’s not so much the sweeping away as putting farmers in charge of emergency medicine.
“That’s why you put committee of EMS professionals together that have done it and present it (an ordinance) to the board as an option,” Ray said.
Schaal said that she agrees with Ray. “It’s a matter of life and death, and like it or not, the county board has responsibility for the county and the welfare of the citizens.
“You have liability whether you want it or not. I’m not saying you have to have an ordinance,” she said.
The Illinois Adminstrative Code, Schaal said, “states (that) you may have an ordinance. Most counties choose to have an ordinance or some sort of agreement.
“In my personal opinion, I feel the authority does lie with the county board and the responsibility for the health and safety of the citizens lies with them,” she said.
Beckman said that the county doesn’t want to be in a position where it says who can operate an ambulance service in the county and who can’t, but Jenne said that the ETSB is not looking at limiting the number of services.
Ray said that if, for example, four ambulance services come into the county, “one of them is not going to make it,” meaning that competition would address that issue.
Ray said, “I think it benefits the people of our community and the people of the county that there’s something in place.”
Beckman said that he’s not opposed to “kicking it around,” and Ray said, “That’s all we’re asking.”
“We’ll take this into consideration,” Beckman said. “I’m all for getting it resolved. From the county’s behalf, I don’t want to stick our neck in our noose for something we have no control over.”
Also at the meeting, the board addressed the issue of some residents saying that when they Google their address, an area far from them shows up on the map.
Jenne said that the county, with its 911 system, has a mapping program that has the correct information in its system, one that’s separate from mapping programs provided by Google and other sources.
Ray explained that the county provides the correct information to companies that offer mapping, and they update that information under their own schedules.

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