Commissioners Taking Second Look At EMS Service, Won’t End Life Squad Contracts
By Mike Perleberg
Ripley County Commissioners again met with local life squad leaders, volunteers, and concerned citizens on Monday, February 29. Photo by Mike Perleberg, Eagle Country 99.3.
(Ripley County, Ind.) – Ripley County Commissioners are reversing their decision to cut ties with three local life squads.
On Monday, commissioners voted unanimously to rescind their vote from February 1 to not renew the county’s contracts for ambulance coverage in unincorporated areas of the county with private non-profits Milan Rescue 30, Sunman Area Life Squad, and Rescue 69. That means instead of county agency Ripley County EMS taking over first run ambulance coverage for most of the county starting August 1, coverage will continue status quo.
Commissioners Gary Stutler, Mark Busching, and Robert Linville previously voted to end those contracts on the advice of former Ripley County EMS director Jim Corbin, who raised concerns about the life squads’ finances and patient care. Corbin abruptly resigned in the middle of February, citing the political climate in the county.
The commissioners said during a Monday evening meeting with local life squads that they were acting on information Corbin was communicating to them.
“That’s what we paid the man for,” Stutler said. “It’s a new ballgame tonight as far as we’re concerned.”
Dozens of people showed up at Monday’s county commissioners meeting at the Ripley County Courthouse Annex in Versailles. Photo by Mike Perleberg, Eagle Country 99.3.
Although the life squads’ contracts will now remain in place past July 31, all present Monday agreed that changes are needed. The commissioners will take recommendations from a newly appointed committee.
That committee is tasked with identifying problems with ambulance coverage in the county and coming up with possible solutions. The following representatives are on the committee:
Ripley County EMS: Scott Huffman and Mike Sieverding
EMS 10 Batesville: Todd Schutte and Brian Hardebeck
Sunman Area Life Squad Rescue 20: Danny Smith and Dave Lattire
Milan Rescue Rescue 30: David Voss and Mike Alloway
Rescue 69: Keith Sieverding and Charlie Cozart
County Councilwoman Brenda Wetzler
County Commissioner Mark Busching
Margaret Mary Hospital CEO Tim Putnam
Commissioners also voted to name Scott Huffman the new director of Ripley County EMS. Huffman had been named the interim director following Corbin’s resignation. Huffman is chairing the committee.
“No one person individually can solve all these problems,” said Huffman. “The goal is to come together and figure out how we are going to make this work.”
Problems brought up Monday by life squad leaders focused on low payment rates by patients, the speed and efficiency of the billing companies used by the county and life squads, and funding to pay for paramedics for the life squads.
Huffman and Ripley County Auditor Bill Wagner said the county is owed about $500,000 in unpaid bills by patients over the past 14 months. Wagner suggested that finances of the county and the local life squads will have to be shared as the conversation continues.
“We’re all going to have to cooperate and lay all the cards on the table,” Wagner stated.
Stutler said that citizens should take EMS-related concerns to their local life squads. The squad reps will share those concerns at future meetings of the committee, which will eventually make recommendations to the county commissioners.