BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – Bill Young, the director of the Lee County Emergency Medical Services, asked the Lee County Board of Supervisors for additional support Tuesday morning.
After the board’s regular meeting, Young told the board Lee County EMS operated with a loss in 2019 and would need additional support to offset Medicare and Medicaid write-offs totaling almost $500,000 of a total $619,000 in charges.
Young said the reimbursement rates are the biggest sticking points in his operations.
“You can see where it makes it very difficult to purchase equipment, maintain equipment, pay bills.” Young said
Supervisor Matt Pflug asked how Young continues to offer services with those types of reimbursements.
When Young rattled off the numbers, several board members muttered that was ridiculous and board Chairman Ron Fedler, who was voted in as chair last week, said Young had his support.
“I’m just going to be very honest with you. It’s very stressful,” Young said. “EMS is my compassion but it’s what I was meant to do, I believe. So I’m gonna figure it out.”
Budget Director Cindy Renstrom said the county contributed $429,624 to the service last year. Young said this year he’s requesting $500,000 to help offset some of the services losses.
He said there is gap funding from the federal government and through the state as well, but he will not be able to see any of that funding as a private service provider.
“The Board of Supervisors should do what we we can to help you continue your services,” Fedler said. “I don’t think we have a choice.”
Young said EMS has already taken steps to curtail expenses including not having a standby ambulance in the rotation. The standby vehicles typically move to a central county point when two ambulances are in the same area.
“We’ve stopped doing that and haven’t really had any issues,” Young said.
Young said the future of the service will probably include a non-profit status to help take advantage of some additional funding and resources.
Young said it’s been almost 17 years since he’s asked the board for an increase in funding. He said he was told by several past supervisors to not ask for a raise.
Fedler said it’s a service that people need, but hope they never use.
“If that means increasing it to $500,000 I would support it, we just have to figure out where we get the money from,” Fedler said.
“Maybe some other sources that aren’t quite as important as ambulance services we could maybe get it from that, but I don’t think we have a choice.”
The state categorizes ambulance services as non-essential, and supervisor Gary Folluo said that needs to be changed. Folluo also said the state should look at procuring ambulance vehicles and selling them similar to law enforcement vehicles to help the ambulance services stay healthier financially.
“If ambulances could be bought through a state program, that would be a huge help,” Folluo said.
Pflug and Young both agreed that the county is lucky in many areas where fire departments serve as first responders so citizens don’t have to wait for ambulances to arrive for some time of first aid.
“We are very lucky we have fire departments that are responding with first response. I can’t say enough about that,” Young said.