HC Supervisors discuss future of ambulance services

MT. PLEASANT — Ambulance services provided by the Henry County Health Center (HCHC) are proving to be a financial burden for the institution and will no longer be operated by them. The Henry County Board of Supervisors met with two members of the HCHC EMS Department at their Tuesday meeting to discuss possible options to ensure ambulance services would be available in Henry County.

Ambulance services in Henry County are still operating, with no set date announced to end the service.

Michelle Rosell, Chief Operating Officer at HCHC, told the supervisors that the hospital needed to remove the service because they were losing money by operating it. The hope is that it would then become a county service.

“The hospital would be leaning more toward a county partnership collaboration, but the ownership, if you will, could not be under the hospital,” she said.

Should the county choose to take over the service, they could choose to rent space from HCHC to house the ambulances and operate under the current physical structure.

“I think there is an obligation we just have [to our] concerned citizens to make sure that emergency services are available, but there is no requirement for the hospital to be the entity that provides that,” she said.

When the hospital expenses the costs of running the ambulance service, their reimbursement is based on their total expenses. By dropping the ambulance services, they will get $460,000 back on general services because the ambulance service is considered a non-allowable cost and is not reimbursable. According to the State of Iowa, emergency medical services are not an essential service and counties are not required to provide them.

One option the supervisors are considering is a possible merger with the Jefferson County Health Center, which currently utilizes a private ambulance service. Their contract expires on Sept. 30, 2020, and are currently in talks to negotiate whether or not to move forward with the regionalization process.

Rosell said the advantages to merging with Jefferson County would be efficiency, a larger response team, expanded services, shared resources and shared administrative functions, among others.

“There’s certainly advantages to that and that is why we kind of went down that road to see what would be the most cost effective manor in which to do this,” she said.

No decision has been made yet as to who will take over the service.