Group mulls EMS funding issues

Addressing the ongoing relationship and issue of providing emergency medical services for McCulloch County, members of a combined group of city, county, hospital and EMS committee met Tuesday to continue for their second-ever quarterly meeting. The focus of the meeting was to continue open communication between the city and county and improve efforts to provide the best emergency care for all citizens. Attended by Brady City Manager Merle Taylor, Councilman Matt Mills, County Judge Randy Young, Commissioner Joe Johnson, EMS department head Ruben Ramon and Heart of Texas Memorial Hospital Administrator Windell McCord, the 90-minute meeting addressed several key issues. After an update on where the EMS department is at the current time on both staffing and operational status, the ongoing concern of funding the annual costs became the foremost topic of concern. “What we are concerned with is the money we are going to have to come up with to continue funding this,” said Commissioner Johnson. “The amount of money we are required to pay is just not there and we need to find out some other options before budget time comes around.” Possible solutions and scenarios were tossed about during a brainstorming session including the possibility of hiring a transport service to handle out of town trips. “Our biggest losses come from transfers to San Angelo where a lot of time and miles are used for each trip,” said Taylor. “This EMS department was designed as a 911 response system, not as a transport system. When we have two crews on the road to San Angelo that strains our resources here in town. What we need to do is find out if there is a way to get this done for a cheaper cost to the city.” Much of the financial quandary faced by the EMS department stems directly from government reimbursement of Medicare and Medicaid patients. “Right from the top, we expect to be able to collect only a small percentage of what we bill,” said Ramon. “With the purchase and installation of the new software, we will at least be able to continue that billing, but the percentages we are able to recoup are continually getting smaller and smaller.” The county has funded $129,000 of the annual operations of the EMS department this year with a percentage increase next year. Following the next fiscal year, the agreement between the county and city will be revisited to see what the best solution and final result will be. “We would like to see the hospital pick up a portion of this problem,” said Johnson. “We feel like they have a vested interest and should take part in the situation.” Faced with this proposition, McCord stated that the hospital did not wish to participate in running or funding the EMS service. “We need to continue to analyze each run and adjust the staffing, billing and collections accordingly,” said Young. “We want to be sure that everything is being done to run this department as smoothly and efficiently as possible.” The meeting adjourned with all parties agreeing that funding the annual operations needs to be researched further. McCord stated that his belief was that the city should contact the Texas Hospital Association to continue efforts to have a detailed financial audit of the daily costs and revenues associated with the department.

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