Ky. fiscal court to consider backup ambulance service agreement

The situation comes after Owensboro Health announced plans to exit an ambulance agreement, leaving the region without a secondary emergency medical transport service


By Jacob Mulliken
Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.

OWENSBORO, Ky. — Daviess Fiscal Court will consider entering into a backup ambulance service agreement with Evansville, Indiana-based Deaconess Hospital at its 5 p.m. Thursday, August 1 regular meeting at the Daviess County Courthouse.

Fiscal Court is considering entering into the agreement with Deaconess due to Owensboro Health informing the court and city of Owensboro officials in June that it would be pulling out of a backup ambulance agreement that has been in effect since 1978. Its more than 40-year agreement expires on Sept. 18, effectively leaving the region without a secondary emergency medical transport service.

Fiscal Court is considering entering into the agreement with Deaconess due to Owensboro Health informing the court and city of Owensboro officials in June that it would be pulling out of a backup ambulance agreement that has been in effect since 1978. (Photo/Daviess County Fiscal Court)
Fiscal Court is considering entering into the agreement with Deaconess due to Owensboro Health informing the court and city of Owensboro officials in June that it would be pulling out of a backup ambulance agreement that has been in effect since 1978. (Photo/Daviess County Fiscal Court)

American Medical Response Inc. (AMR), doing business as Mercy Ambulance of Lexington and Owensboro and Daviess County's newest emergency medical transport provider, replaced Louisville-based Procarent company Yellow Ambulance on June 30. They have provided a fine service and have been excellent partners, West County Commissioner George Wathen said.

"We have a clear cut contract and no reason to believe that we would need a backup service," he said. "However, if a situation arose where they couldn't provide service or the situation calls for additional support, then we need a reliable backup plan. It is simply prudent to have something in place."

Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly declined to comment.

The 1978 agreement outlined strict considerations that the city, the county and the hospital, which was then Owensboro-Daviess County Hospital, would honor -- the city and the county would provide the hospital, which was a public entity at the time, with four fully equipped ambulances and the hospital agreed to run them. Essentially, city and county officials agreed to provide the funds and health experts would provide the medical service.

Things remained that way until 1998 when Yellow Ambulance took over the service. Since then, and at least as recently as 2008, Owensboro Health has still agreed to sign back-up agreements with the city and county that would go into effect only in the event that their primary contractor failed to meet its end of the contract.

In June, the city and county received a letter from Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs LLP, a Louisville-based law firm representing OH. In it, commercial services partner Byron E. Leet stated that a more recent Backup Ambulance Service Provider and Financial Service Agreement all three parties signed in 2008 is no longer in effect because it required that a takeover contingency plan be agreed to within one year's time. Since no plan was established, Leet wrote, his client is honoring the 1978 agreement, which was entered into by its predecessor, Owensboro-Daviess County Hospital, that automatically renews itself every year unless any one or all of the parties in it decide to no longer participate.

Leet also stated that the terms of the 1978 agreement were not triggered by Yellow Ambulance's decision to discontinue services and since the city and county had contracted with AMR to take over for Yellow Ambulance, that there would be no gap in coverage during the transition that would require ambulance service. Essentially, there was no need for OH to be on standby.

In the eyes of county officials, however, having a backup service in place is crucial, Wathen said.

"We feel like having a backup service is a major priority of this county," Wathen said. "Deaconess has offered to do that for us and that is the only organization that has made that offer. Owensboro Health was absolutely not interested. We (the court) have to protect the citizens of Daviess County."

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©2019 the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.)

 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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