October 9, 2013

OUR VIEW: Let's talk before we leap


---- — When we followed up with Rural/Metro Corp. officials in April, we left the conversation hopeful that delayed response times were soon to be a thing of the past.

We learned there had been management changes at the ambulance service company contracted by Cass County, and we were assured it would result in positive changes. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case.

The poor service and long wait times were the focus of much debate at this week’s Logansport City Council meeting, and it seems the problem is actually getting worse.

City officials threw out some examples:

• A person went into full cardiac arrest and waited 24 minutes because one of Rural/Metro’s ambulances was en route to Indianapolis with a patient while the other was on another call.

• A 2-year-old boy had a piece of steel wedged into his eye and firefighters ended up taking him to the hospital in a firetruck after waiting too long for Rural/Metro.

• Family members of patients have gotten fed up with waiting for Rural/Metro and taken them to the hospital in their own vehicles.

• Tow trucks have arrived at accident scenes before Rural/Metro.

When there are lives on the line, this type of poor service is unacceptable.

We weren’t surprised when talk at the meeting turned to providing funding for the Logansport Fire Department to purchase an ambulance. Clearly, LFD officials say, the problem needs to be solved.

We agree, but we’re hesitant to jump on board with the idea of spending $100,000 of taxpayer money just yet.

Though the item was approved as part of the 2014 budget, we’re happy to know concerns among council members have sparked a desire for future discussion on the matter before a vehicle is purchased.

There was a reason for the change 18 months ago, and that reason still exists. The ambulance service was moved to a private entity in an effort to push the financial burden of emergency transports off taxpayers’ shoulders.

When Logansport Memorial Hospital was operating the system, it lost hundreds of thousands of dollars over 15 years. The loss was mainly due to denial of coverage by insurance carriers and lack of ample reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid patients.

When those parties didn’t pony up the full payment — or in many cases, no payment at all — the county ended up footing the bill. And that essentially means you, the taxpayers, are paying for these services.

So, if the city gets into the ambulance business, odds are it won’t be able to collect payment for services rendered, pushing even more expense back on the taxpayer.

It might have to come down to that. But before we willingly jump into those shark-infested waters, let’s find out if we can fix the current system. And if we can’t, let’s discuss all the options available. It may sound cliché, but we support the idea of creating a “focus group” between city and county leaders to discuss how to proceed.

All parties involved need to come to the table and figure out what’s the best course of action. We need a cohesive plan of action instead of a piecemeal approach by different agencies.

And regardless of what’s decided or who joins the conversation, we need to keep this conversation focused on the facts.

Let’s keep the inflammatory remarks out of it. They don’t help anybody, especially the people waiting on an ambulance.

THE ISSUE 2014 budget item of $100,000 for ambulance for Logansport Fire Department OUR VIEW We need a cohesive plan of action instead of a piecemeal approach at different agencies.