Ill. county considers ambulance response time fines
Effingham County ambulance oversight committee is discussing the addition of stipulations for extended response times as Abbott EMS' contract nears expiration
By Charles Mills
Effingham Daily News, Ill.
EFFINGHAM, Ill. — Effingham County's contract with Abbott EMS expires in April, and officials have written into the next agreement costly penalties to be levied if an ambulance does not arrive on time when a call is made to 911.
Response time has been discussed at length in recent months among members of the county's Ambulance Oversight Committee. During a special meeting on Monday, the board approved recommendations by the committee that officials hope will improve response time.
Under the next contract, response time will be calculated from the time an ambulance is dispatched by Effingham County or Effingham City 911 to the time it arrives on scene and crew members approach the patient. The acceptable time varies according to the distance the ambulance must travel: Start with 10 minutes, and then add a minute per mile. So, an ambulance traveling 10 miles should be on scene within 20 minutes.
In that scenario, the ambulance company would be fined $500 if a crew isn't on scene within 20 minutes. Fines would escalate to $8,000 if the ambulance still has not arrived 20 minutes after that.
The changes were approved when the board agreed to a request for proposal (RFP) for 911 ambulance services. The RFP invites emergency service providers, including Abbott, to bid on the next contract.
County Board Member Rob Arnold, chairman of the Ambulance Oversight Committee, told board members the committee had been working on the RFP for the last couple of months. The current contract with Abbott expires April 30, and the committee decided some stipulations must be written into the new contract that aren't in the existing contract. Also, the new contract will last three years rather than the five years Abbott is working under.
The RFP only targets calls made to the 911 service operated by Effingham County and Effingham City emergency services dispatchers for ambulance service. It does not include calls made directly to the ambulance service.
"We put this request for proposal together to provide guidelines of our expectations," Arnold said. "This is a compilation of our efforts."
Board member David Campbell said that people complain to him about the number of ambulances on duty.
"I really don't see anything in here that says they have to have 'x' amount of ambulances out there at one time," Campbell said. "So, how are we going to address that?"
"This is basically giving them guidelines of what we'll do if you don't do this," Arnold said.
Board Chairman Jim Niemann was concerned that if the RFP dictated how many ambulances the company is required to operate, it could be seen as a liability to the county.
"That potentially puts the county on the hook for liability," Niemann said. "This (RFP) says you have to answer the calls. So, this addresses outcomes instead of managing the company on how to do it."
The RFP provides a list of minimum service requirements to include licensing, staffing, advanced life support, vehicle requirements, coverage and availability requirements, response time requirements, penalties for contract violation, mutual-aid requirements, reports, protocols, standard of care ordinance and communications equipment.
"We expect them to answer the calls within the time frame we set and if you don't there are penalties," Niemann said.
There are nine penalties established in the RFP. The Effingham County Ambulance Oversight Committee would be responsible for reviewing each violation and penalize the ambulance service at the committee's discretion.
- Failure to arrive with a transport-capable unit within required response time is a $500 penalty.
- Failure to arrive with a transport-capable unit within required response time plus five minutes is a $1,000 penalty.
- Failure to arrive with a transport-capable unit within required response time plus 10 minutes is a $2,000 penalty.
- Failure to arrive with a transport-capable unit within required response time plus 15 minutes is a $4,000 penalty.
- Failure to arrive with a transport-capable unit within required response time plus 20 minutes is an $8,000 penalty.
- Failure to respond to a call or a patient is transported under any other means other than the ambulance service (e.g. if no one responds to a call, call gets lost, etc): is a $10,000 penalty.
- Other violations not listed above: violation notice but no monetary penalty. Such violations may be used as a basis to decide whether to renew this agreement.
- "I think the fines are heavy enough to push the service to get them there within the timelines," Niemann said.
Board member Heather Mumma questioned the change in duration of a new contract. The new contract would take effect May 1, 2022, for a duration of three years.
"Why three years?" Mumma asked.
Arnold said if the ambulance service meets the goals written in the RFP, the contract could be extended.
Campbell said he would rather see more than one ambulance service taking calls, comparing it to the way tow trucks are called out by rotation.
"I am not a big fan of monopolies and why are we limiting it to one ambulance service?" Campbell questioned.
Niemann said since he had been on the board this was the first time the board decided to put out an RFP for ambulance service. He said the board wanted to get the proposals out ahead of time to allow for a proper transition time if another provider is chosen over Abbott.
"The transition from City/County to Abbott EMS took about six months," Niemann said.
The official wording approved by the council Monday requesting proposals for 911 ambulance services reads as follows:
"Effingham County invites proposals for 911 Ambulance Services for Effingham County. Sealed proposals shall be submitted to the County Board Office at Effingham County Office Building, 101 N. 4th St., Suite 301, Effingham, IL 62401 no later than 3:30 P.M. on September 14, 2021 and publicly opened at 3:30 PM on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 in the Effingham County Board Meeting Room. Request for Proposals stipulations may be obtained from the County Board Office, 101 N. 4th St., Suite 301, Effingham, IL 62401 from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M or on the Effingham County Website at http://www.co.effingham.il.us. You may contact the Board Office by telephone at 217-342-4990 or email at email@example.com. The Effingham County Board reserves the right to consider or reject any and all proposals."
The full documentation of stipulations, response time requirements and penalties can be found on the Effingham County website at co.effingham.il.us/board/Reqest-for-proposal.
(c)2021 the Effingham Daily News (Effingham, Ill.)