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Amb. Board talks policies and procedures
In Jan. 15 Issue
By Kim Graham

News-Register Reporter

At its first meeting in the new year, the Russell County Ambulance Board took a long hard look at policies and procedures.

During a report presented by EMS Director Terry Hancock on the number of ambulance runs, board members expressed concern regarding expenses incurred when answering nonemergency calls on a regular basis with deliberate refusal to transport.

Hancock said Russell County EMS has refusals for transport weekly by patients who regularly call in for assistance sitting people up in chairs, checking blood pressure, or checking blood sugar levels.

"The only time we ever charge a patient is if we transport them," said Hancock. "There are some counties that are charging what they call a response fee. It's a flat fee maybe $50 for those cases."

He said Taylor County is looking at implementing a response fee.

Board members asked County Attorney Kevin Shearer about legal issues regarding charging fees for nonemergency runs when patients never intended to be transported.

"If you incur your expenses on going out and loading somebody, what's the difference (if a nonemergency call results in a refusal)," asked Shearer. "Either you charge or you don't. It's a policy thing."

Shearer said if someone calls EMS out for the sole purpose of checking blood pressure, a fee needs to be set for the service.

"I think it's something we need to maybe consider," said Gray. "I don't mind helping anybody out but there's a cost for everything nowadays."

Discussion continued regarding ambulance availability for emergency calls, expenses incurred to run nonemergency refusal to transport calls, and possibly charging a fee when the patient is ultimately transported by helicopter.

Currently, Russell County EMS does not get paid when air evac is called to transport a patient Hancock said.

"We definitely should recover our expenses," said board member Mike Popplewell. "That's a must I think."

Work by the board and staff on an EMS policies and procedures handbook continued with sick leave policy changes.

Current policies allow staff to use 960 hours of accumulated sick leave toward retirement or choose to be paid the salary equivalent of all accumulated sick leave at retirement.

Board members Mike Popplewell and James Gray said they disagree with allowing a payout of sick leave at 100 percent salary rate.

"I am going to make a motion that you can use your sick leave toward your retirement or you can work up to retirement and then you are paid 33.3 percent of your salary what you're making per hour," said Mike Popplewell.

The motion was seconded by Leslie Simpson and carried unanimously.

911 Center Director Terra McQueary, resigned her position with 152.63 hours comp-time accrued during her tenure under EMS management.

"She had some comp-time built up from when she was with the ambulance service and there was some question…as far as if the county was going to take that over," said Hancock. "So (the county) agreed to pay half and we'd pay half to pay her for her comp-time."

Even though McQueary was a salaried employee, comp-time was allowed due to current policy that states all employees will have the option of earning comp-time Hancock said.

"If she was salary she shouldn't have gotten any comp-time," said Gray. "That's my opinion but whoever let her - she claimed it and I guess we were giving it to her."

The issue brought to light additional changes the board intends to adopt in a new policy and procedures manual to specify which employees may earn comp-time.

"I think all we can do is use this as a good learning lesson, get our handbook straight like we want it and like it should be so it won't happen again," Gray said. "We're to this point and somebody's going to have to pay her money. The LINK Board agreed to pay her half which the fiscal court approved that last night."

Gray said there was a verbal agreement made during meetings of local agencies prior to the recent interlocal agreement, that sick time, vacation time, and comp-time would go with the dispatch staff but it wasn't included in the final interlocal agreement.

"The question was raised, the answer was given and I guess that's just one of those things that everybody assumed was what would happen and now we're sitting here talking about this," said Gray.

Board member Leslie Simpson made a motion to pay half the comp-time owed to McQueary.

"Well I really don't want to pay it," said board member Leslie Simpson. "But since the county has stepped up and paid half, I'll make a motion that we pay our half."

The motion carried by a two to one vote with Popplewell voting no.

Chris Ramsey, newly appointed deputy county judge executive, attended the meeting in a show of support to the board.

"I'm just here on behalf of Judge Robertson," said Ramsey. "I'm here tonight just to listen and to see what your concerns are and that way if we know what your needs are, then we know how to help you better…we are here to help assist in any form or fashion."

At 7:07 p.m. the board entered a 20 minute executive session in accordance with KRS 61.810(1)f. No action was taken.

Other business:

    Audit reports continue to be delayed. Auditors had indicated the reports would be delivered by December 17, 2009. Hancock said auditors have completed the reports and he is expecting delivery any day.

    The board voted unanimously to give Eric Wardell a $1.50/hour raise in salary and Troy Walters a $1/hour raise in salary.

    At the December meeting, the board asked Hancock to look into converting from propane to natural gas heat. Popplewell and Simpson reported natural gas lines will be run to the area so there would be a tap fee and cost incurred to run gas lines from the main. Simpson said switching from propane to natural gas heat could save EMS $2,700 - $3,000 per month.

    EMS received a $600 People's Grant from SKRECC that was used to buy Garmin GPS units for ambulances. Hancock reported GPS units have been installed in all trucks.

  Total EMS calls for 2010 were 2,954 up from last year's total of 2,814 calls.

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