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October 16, 2013

KITCHELL: 'Golden hour' at hand for local officials

When someone dials 911 and asks for an ambulance to come, the expectation is that a local ambulance service assigned to do nothing but respond to those calls will respond immediately and that everything that can be done to save a life will be done.

While that may be the expectation in Logansport and Cass County as much as it is anywhere else in this country, there is genuine concern about the job that Rural Metro, the company hired by county officials to provide ambulance service, is doing. Those concerns boiled over at a Logansport City Council meeting last week when the council approved a $100,000 appropriation in the 2014 city budget. That funding will be committed to purchase an ambulance for the Logansport Fire Department for the first time. That’s somewhat unusual since the city isn’t responsible for providing its own ambulance service.

Councilman Chuck LaDow called for the council to eliminate the item in the budget, but after a discussion involving both Logansport’s fire chief, Mark Strong, and firefighter B.J. Cox, the other six members were convinced to proceed with the appropriation. Strong said he was reluctant to move the fire department into the ambulance business, but the choice is clear based on problems with Rural Metro’s service.

While patients may ultimately win because of the council’s move, the ultimate loser is the taxpayer who is being billed twice for the same service. Why should Logansport taxpayers have to pay for both a fire department ambulance and another one contracted by the county? The obvious answer is that they shouldn’t, but unless something happens to change minds, they will be soon.

In Walton, there is a peculiar twist to this situation. Walton’s Bernie Mangan relates the story of a neighbor who called for an ambulance and had both Rural Metro and the Galveston Ambulance Service respond to the call. Ironically, the man also ended up being billed by both Rural Metro and Galveston for ambulance calls. Mangan says the billing was eventually straightened out, but the coverage of the same area by two different ambulance services represents a duplication of services that is unnecessarily redundant, if not a waste of public money.

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