IU Health Starke Hospital Contract Could Endanger County Ambulance Service

IU Health Starke Hospital officials met yesterday with county officials to discuss a potential problem that could scuttle plans for upgraded EMS services in the county.

The potential problem is the hospital’s plan to contract with an outside ambulance service to provide transfers from here to other medical facilities for advanced care. As hospital CEO Linda Satkoski said, “We many times need ALS-equipped vehicles with paramedics to make those runs.” The problem is that any private company wants all transfers, advanced and basic.

Taking basic transfers from the Starke County EMS would mean a reduction of $100,000 in charges from the local service, crippling its ability to support itself.

Starke County Council President Mark Smith said if the hospital contracts the transfers of basic life support patients to a private company this could, in the worst case scenario, mean the county might have to look to privatizing the ambulance service.

“That,” he said, “would be a shame in light of all the work that has been put into providing advanced services through the local EMS, and fire department personnel. If the hospital contracts were going to be at a crossroads, what is the county going to do? Do we go back to our original service that we’ve always provided? A lot of people have put in a lot of effort. Our volunteer firemen all over this county have put in a lot of effort. Every single fire department has certified firemen as EMTs and as first responders in order to help this situation. We literally, from a grass roots level here, have got people county-wide to make the change.”

County officials, including Councilmen Marvin McLaughlin and Tony Radkiewicz, plus Commissioners Dan Bridegroom and Kathy Norem pointed out that the EMS budget has been increased for 2012 by $140,000. “There isn’t another $100,000 to make up the shortfall,” the officials pointed out.

In defense, the hospital representatives present said, “When every minute counts we need a service that get them from our facility to where they need to be as quick as possible. If the local can provide that service, we’re all for it.” Hospital CEO Linda Satkoski wanted to assure the community that with ALS ambulances they can call in now and the helicopter service they are able to summon, critical care patients are getting timely transfers.

“We’re still providing service to the community by getting other services available,” continued Satkoski. “We certainly are very willing to work with the county. We want the county to be able to provide this service so we’ll get back together on December 1st with the EMS services in the county to determine a flow chart as to the start-up date and when they will be prepared. Again, the county and the public needs to know that they’re getting this service through another ambulance or helicopter service that we have. They will get good, quality service, we’re trying to work more closely with the county.”

Both the hospital representatives and EMS Director Paul Mathewson agreed to try to come up with a solution, and will meet again with county officials at 2:00 p.m. on
December 1st.