VERSAILLES – Nearly every day, Ripley County Emergency Medical Services personnel from Batesville, Sunman, Milan and Versailles respond to calls ranging from medical emergencies to vehicle accidents. But what is the future of these organizations?
On July 17, EMS representatives and county and town officials gathered at South Ripley Elementary School to learn about the EMS financial crisis and possible alternatives.
Keith Sieverding, Rescue 69, Versailles, president, pointed out, “The purpose of this meeting is just to communicate with everyone in the county, paint the picture of what the situation is, get the facts out there and what the next steps are.
“When I got involved with Rescue 69, it was having a financial crisis. We worked really hard to put a budget in place, but it has been a lot of work to put a good solid foundation under it .... It also became apparent it wasn’t just Rescue 69 seeing those issues. It was suggested that maybe the units better get together and share their stories and see what the situation was from a front-line provider perspective.”
He stressed, “All the units (Batesville EMS 10; Milan Rescue 30; Sunman Area Life Squad; and Rescue 69) are losing money ($244,103 total last year), and everybody knows that’s not a sustainable model .... They do not have a voice at the county level or have input into the budgeting process.”
Some of the key issues are “the payer mix is shifting away from private insurance to Medicaid and Medicare. There is economic pressure on operating costs, including fuel, insurance and supplies. There’s a cost to support the paramedic structure. There are employee wages because the units are staffed 24/7, and there are not accruing monies to replace vehicles, equipment and facilities.”
Sieverding explained the county’s three tiers of care. “The first tier is when EMS goes out with fire department with basic life support (BLS), nontransport. The next level is BLS transport, which is some of what the squads do. They get patients and take them to the next level of care, which could include minor medication or starting IV therapy. The third tier is the paramedic chase vehicle, which has advanced life support capability. They can administer drugs and provide additional lifesaving capabilities.”