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County Commissioners choose to provide paramedic care

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

- County will negotiate contract with Trans-Care, end 25-year agreement with Athens

After months of research and deliberation, the Clay County Commissioners vo-ted to end the county's 25-year relationship with Athens Ambulance Service in favor of a new agreement with Trans-Care.

The decision of Commissioners President David Parr and Commissioners Daryl Andrews and Buddy Knox is pending contract negotiation, and a special meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 21 at the courthouse. If the commissioners do not satisfactorily work out details with Trans-Care, they will renew the previous contract with Athens for one year.

"It's been a hot topic," Parr said at the meeting Monday, explaining that after a year of review, it was time to move forward. "It's time to put this thing to bed."

Prior to the vote, resident Nancy Larson addressed the commissioners, explaining that after returning to the area after 34 years as a Virginia resident, she was concerned about the level of service available to her and other rural residents.

"This area needs paramedics," she said, and referred to the commissioners' choice among Athens, Trans-Care and Care ambulance services. "It's like saying you'd rather pay more for a 19-inch black and white TV than a 42-inch plasma screen."

Another resident, Mar-olyn Nees, who said she lives three miles south of U.S. 40 on the Harmony-Center Point Road, also indicated she believes Clay County is in need of paramedics. Describing a personal experience, she explained she was told she would have to wait for Trans-Care to transport her to Terre Haute Regional Hospital, a wait that lasted a total of three hours.

"I never was so shocked in all my life," she said. "I'm an older person. I'm thinking of my children, my grandchildren."

She also recounted a time when an auto collision took place close to her home, and after dialing 911, she waited more than 10 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at her home, a mere six miles from Brazil. When they arrived, there were only Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), no paramedics to administer advanced life support (ALS).

"We must have paramedics," she said. "When it comes to human life, expense is not negotiable. So my vote is for Trans-Care, or the lowest (cost) one that provides service for paramedics. We're living in the Dark Ages."

Passing on the concerns of a Lewis Township resident, Parr explained he received a call from a person who was anxious the level of ambulance service may not be equivalent in all areas of the county.

Faril Ward, Trans-Care Operations Manager, addressed the issue by explaining that the tentative plan, though subject to change, will include two intermediates at the south end of the county and one paramedic at the north end. Intermediates and paramedics alike are trained to administer ALS services and are quite similar, he continued, although paramedics are able to care for long-term transport patients and handle medicinal infusions. As both positions are classified as ALS providers, the presence of a paramedic isn't usually necessary if an intermediate is at the scene. Besides, Ward added, it would be one more paramedic than the county has now.

Athens Director Dennis Rose explained to the commissioners that training and certification for the intermediate level would take more than a year to go into effect, and noted there are only 24 certified intermediates in the state of Indiana. Ensuring employees are proficient at that level is crucial, he said, and explained that nothing came of previous discussions of additional training, although there has been employee interest.

"It would certainly behoove us to take it to another intermediate level," Rose said. "We will make sure we're doing that properly."

While the cost stipulated in the Athens bid was set at $153,000, the Trans-Care bid of $152,000, though lower, includes inflationary costs. Knox, who voted against using Trans-Care, also voiced concern about other costs, including vehicle liability.

Parr thanked everyone who submitted bids, and Andrews later told The Brazil Times the employees of Athens have served Clay County well for the past 25 years, and he appreciates the dedication of Trans-Care as it makes the transition to Clay County.

"I appreciate the efforts of David Parr in making the tough decision to bring paramedic service to Clay County," Andrews said. The commissioner explained the county commissioners' objective has been to bring ALS to the county while including an adequate back-up plan, work experience in a 911 environment and economic feasibility as factors in their decision. "This is something I've been looking forward to and working toward."

Meanwhile, Trans-Care President Russell Ferrell said Athens has done a wonderful job, and he applauds the commissioners for the time and consideration they put into making their decision.

"There will be some bumps and bruises," he said. "We're coming in with open arms, and we're looking forward to getting started."

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