Indiana county officials consider updates, improvements to EMS contract
Floyd County officials are going month-to-month with New Chapel EMS as they look at specific EMS needs, deliverables
By Brooke McAfee
The Evening News and the Tribune
FLOYD COUNTY, Ind. — Floyd County officials are considering ways to improve its contract for EMS service.
The county’s EMS board met in a special meeting last Thursday to discuss potential updates to its EMS contract.
The county contracts with New Chapel EMS for ambulance service outside the city limits of New Albany. The provider operates two ambulances with full-time staffing in Floyd County, and a third ambulance is available during peak hours.
The county is contracting with New Chapel EMS on a month-to-month basis after the long-term contract expired in May, according to previous reporting from the News and Tribune.
Floyd County Commissioner Jason Sharp is the chair of the EMS board. He said the county’s previous contract with New Chapel “was just way too loose.”
“It really didn’t spell out what our needs were as a community and what we really needed from our emergency medical services,” he said.
The EMS board’s discussion is a continuation of a long-time debate in Floyd County about ways to improve ambulance service. Some officials have expressed concerns about New Chapel’s run times and quality of service, while others have expressed support for staying with the current provider.
The EMS board is developing more precise criteria for an updated contract, according to Sharp.
He said this will be a necessary step before putting out RFPs for a new EMS contract, which he expects to occur later this year.
“We’re just putting out what we want right now [and] as a group trying to figure out what we want out of a contract,” Sharp said. “Obviously, any service out there will be able to [respond], including New Chapel.”
The county is looking into requiring three to four ambulances in the new contract.
“What I would like to see is three ambulances that are absolutely dedicated to 911 calls in Floyd County at a minimum,” Sharp said.
At last week’s meeting, officials also discussed the possibility of having a paramedic response vehicle in addition to ambulances.
A new contract will focus on “everything from the standard of care that will be provided to the strategic deployment of assets,” Sharp said.
“These are all questions that need to be answered, so that way we can look at providing the best care for our citizens as possible,” he said. “In order to do that, that takes quite a bit of time to go through data, referencing some of the national standards that are out there and best practices, reviewing some of the studies that the county has done previously.”
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The investigation into Jamey Noel, the former Clark County sheriff and founder of New Chapel EMS, has caused some uncertainty in the community after search warrants were served at the official’s Jeffersonville home and several New Chapel properties.
According to New Chapel officials, ambulance service has not been interrupted. At Thursday’s meeting, New Chapel Assistant Chief Matt Owen said the service is “operating under normal circumstances,” and he expects it will “continue to do so.”
Al Knable, president of the Floyd County Commissioners, told the News and Tribune in August that the commissioners plan to continue the agreement with New Chapel “as long as they maintain the ability to provide the same level of service as they have before.” However, county officials have been considering contingency plans in case there is an interruption to service.
Knable noted on Thursday that the scheduling of the special meeting was related to recent events with the Noel investigation.
“I think we need to be ready to go with contracts tomorrow, now, in case we need to,” he said.
Sharp said the new contract will have a “very clear and concise expectation” of the standards of care.”
He said the board will review situations that involve extended response times.
“It’s not hard to research and see that some of those run-times [and] responses are really difficult to obtain in more rural settings,” Sharp said. “So there has to be a little bit of leeway there.”
“But one of the things I’m hoping that this committee does when we have incidents such as extended response times, that essentially triggers a review of this committee to help determine what happened here and how we can alleviate that type of delayed care,” he said.
Sharp, who also serves as deputy chief of administration for the Jeffersonville Fire Department, emphasized that one of the biggest challenges is the small pool of EMTs and paramedics in the area.
“Going through this, we have learned that there has not been any advanced life support training provided in Clark and Floyd counties since 2012, so obviously there is a bit of a bottleneck in training,” he said.
He has been speaking with officials at Ivy Tech Community College and Prosser Career Education Center to discuss the possibility of offering EMT training.
“So far, they have been very receptive,” Sharp said. “It’s going well. Nothing’s been set in stone by any means, but the conversation has been started, and everybody recognizes that there is a need.”