As county officials evaluate five proposals from companies seeking the four-year contract to provide local ambulance services, leadership from Baptist Memorial Hospital-Attala lamented how long it takes MedStat, the current provider, to get patients transferred for care elsewhere.
The Attala County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to decide among five different proposals for an ambulance provider to serve both the county and city on Wednesday, after The Star-Herald went to press. In the past, city and county each contracted for the service separately, but the new contract will be held by the county, with the city sending its allocated subsidy to the county.
Supervisors are deciding among proposals from Priority, ASAP, Pafford and Patient Care and current provider, MedStat.
Dr. Tim Alford, an emergency room physician said during a meeting with the board last Friday that timely transfers are not just a logistical issue, but one of providing good patient care
“We don’t feel patient safety needs are being met. It happens too often that... five and six-hour delays are commonplace and you’re helpless... it’s not good. This is a medical issue and the professionals are here to make a plea,” he told the supervisors. “We’ve got to up our game. It is getting more serious by the day.”
Alford was quick to say that ambulance staff is not the problem, instead pointing a finger at not enough equipment being dedicated to the area and poor management of the equipment that is available.
Allison Schuler, the hospital’s director of Nursing, gave the board a spreadsheet of statistics on the time that elapses between when they request a patient transports to another facility and the time MedStat picks those patients up. That data suggests that an average of nearly four hours goes by from the time the call is made to the time MedStat picks up the patient.
The head of Emergency Room nursing agreed saying that, while two ambulances are allocated by the current provider for Attala County, one of those two is frequently servicing Holmes County, leaving local needs unmet at times.
“We’re dealing with an aging populations. The pressure is getting greater and we’re having sicker, older people,” she said.
Most of the other services submitting proposals indicated that they would supply two or 2.5 ambulances to the area at the current subsidy rate of $66,000 annually. Priorityl however, offered three fully-equipped ambulances, plus a fourth that would be a backup at no cost to the city or county, instead, intending to make enough off of for-profit transfers. That fourth rig, representatives said, could also be called upon during unexpected emergencies or to relieve ambulances that are “on the wall” waiting to hand off patients at other facilities, returning them to local service faster.
The downside to that proposal, some indicated is that Priority doesn’t servie any other nearby counties. Priority officials, said, however, they would sign mutual aid agreements with companies in nearby counties to ensure local needs are met in a crisis situation.
Kosciusko Mayor Jimmy Cockroft suggested that the supervisors — regardless of which company they select — put together an advisory committe that includes all the stakeholders to review performance on at least a quarterly basis.
Alford agreed saying that, ‘There needs to be a meaningful way to evaluate what’s going on.”
Although the supervisors postponed a vote until Wednesday after the Friday deadline for written proposals had passed, they did comment that they had heard the concerns loud and clear.
“I think we need to fix it. We need to do something else,” said Billy Joe Coffee, Beat 2 supervisor.
Beat 5 Supervisor Tim Pinkard said that the decision is a difficult one.
“I want the best service we can have. I’m not worried about changing, but we’re fooling with people’s lives. We need at least three trucks,” he said. “I’m still thniking and still praying becuase I want to make the best decision for our people.”