Is Starke County going to get out of the ambulance business? That was one of the questions several County Councilmen and one Commissioner attempted to answer this week.
Getting out of the ambulance business was only one of the proposals made in a session on upgrading the county’s ambulance capabilities to Advance Life Service (ALS) status.
In attendance were IU Health Starke Hospital administrators and staff, who have pushed for the upgrade. It’s been reported that Starke County is one of only two counties in the state with only Basic Life Support (BLS) manned ambulances.
Earlier, firefighters from the seven county departments received training as First Responders, although the care they can give pales in comparison with ALS personnel.
At this week’s meeting, it was revealed that Prompt Ambulance Service has contacted Starke County officials to see if they would be interested in turning the emergency coverage in the county over to them, on a private basis. The county would not be obligated to provide any funds, and the ALS personnel would be available. Currently the county loses approximately $200,000 on BLS service a year.
There was some sentiment at the meeting for contracting with Prompt, or a similar company, to provide ALS service in cooperation with Starke’s employees until some EMTs here could become ALS certified. Then the county could fund an upgraded service. That training, it was reported, would take about two years for the local personnel to complete.
Starke County EMT Director, Lisa Burger, said her employees were worried that they were going to lose their jobs. The county officials attempted to quiet their fears by saying that all alternatives would be investigated before a decision was made.
Councilman David Pearman said, “We need to put this matter on some sort of timeline and not get lost in long lasting discussions.”
Commissioner Kathy Norem agreed, and named a task force to meet with the goal of speeding up the process, while at the same time assuring the public of the best emergency medical care possible.
Councilman Tony Radkiewicz said, “Something must be done, after all this is the second unhealthiest county in the state.”