By MATT KOESTERS
JEFFERSONVILLE — Though Rural/Metro Ambulance disputes the claims of contract violations brought forward by the Clark County Health Department, the Indianapolis-based emergency services provider has decided to voluntarily terminate its contract with the county, effective in 60 days.
The Clark County Commissioners heard from health department Executive Director Dr. Kevin Burke at its Feb. 28 meeting. The contractual violations Burke alleged Rural/Metro committed included failure of Rural/Metro ambulances to stock controlled substances like morphine and Ativan; failure to let Clark County 911 control ambulance dispatch and standby locations at all times; failure to maintain a minimum number of available ambulance units within the county; failure to obtain mutual-aid agreements with other county-certified ambulance providers; and failure to provide reports on “long response time” runs.
Reading from a prepared statement, Richard Doggett, the Rural/Metro vice president responsible for EMS operations in Indiana, told the Clark County Commissioners at the board's Thursday meeting that county leaders, Burke and representatives of the Clark County Emergency Operations Center had been unwilling to meet with company representatives to discuss solutions to the issues.
“Without two-way communication, we have no ability to share the actions we have taken to address Dr. Burke’s concerns or to solicit the county’s guidance and recommendations for future improvement,” Doggett said. “We believe we are at an impasse and are left with no choice but to voluntarily provide notice to terminate the contract and refocus our management team and work force on the patients we will continue to serve in the area.”
Neither Burke nor county 911 Administrator Brad Meixell were in attendance at the meeting to dispute Doggett’s claim.
“I think there was maybe some miscommunications there, but I know that I directly did not receive any request from them for any type of correspondence or response,” Commissioners President Jack Coffman said after the meeting. “I know our county attorney did request some information from them, and he did not receive the information he requested.”
Rural/Metro is the preferred ambulance provider of the town of Clarksville, and also serves the city of New Albany.
Rural/Metro ambulances will serve the county for the next two months.
“During this 60-day transition period, we pledge to provide the highest-quality services to the citizens of Clark County and to ensure a seamless and orderly transfer of services to the new provider,” Doggett said.
Yellow Ambulance and New Chapel EMS should be able to step into the void created by the termination of Rural/Metro’s contract, Coffman said.
“They believe they can fulfill the needs at that time until we have [a new contractual provider], and if they can’t, then we will proceed to go ahead and seek out other services that might be needed,” Coffman said. “But they have indicated that they can fulfill those needs.”
Rural/Metro had resolved the issue of not having drugs like morphine and Ativan on its ambulances, Doggett said. He added that central dispatch control of ambulance deployment was problematic because the system that is currently in place doesn’t allow for Rural/Metro to know where, when or how many units have been dispatched to a given emergency. He said it was a technological weakness in the county’s system that could be addressed.
“We were committed to working with Central Dispatch to come up with a solution that would have worked for all parties and have never compromised patient care or safety,” Doggett said.
Doggett and Coffman said the partnership failed due to a lack of communication between the company and the county.
Rural/Metro officials did not answer questions at the conclusion of their portion of the meeting, and referred reporters to their prepared statement.
MORATORIUM ON BUILDING PERMIT FEES
The commissioners unanimously approved a moratorium on building permit fees for tornado-related construction through the end of 2013.
Carolyn King with March2Recovery made the request for the moratorium, stating that the relief organization was still busy helping families affected by the deadly EF-4 tornado which hit Northern Clark County on March 2, 2012.
INSURANCE PROVIDER’S REQUEST TABLED
The commissioners tabled a request by Mike Whelan with Insurance and Investment Group to become the county’s agent of record for property and casualty insurance.
The commissioners seemed surprised by Whelan’s request.
“I don’t think we’re ready to do that. I’m not ready to do that tonight,” Commissioner John Perkins said.
The commissioners had misunderstood the purpose of Whelan’s visit, Coffman added.
Edward “Culpepper” Cooper with Neace Lukens is the county’s current agent of record for property and casualty insurance.
LEASE AGREEMENT APPROVED
As expected, the commissioners unanimously approved an agreement with the city of Jeffersonville regarding payments to the city for the use of the J.B. Ogle Animal Shelter.
The county will make two payments to the county for back fees owed for the use of the shelter. The county will pay $75,000 by the end of March and another $75,000 by Oct. 1. Rent for the city of Jeffersonville’s lease of space in the county building is forgiven through 2014.
Perkins commended Commissioner Rick Stephenson for negotiating the agreement with Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore.