By Stan Welch
County administrator Rusty Burns has confirmed to The Journal that The Polaris Group, of Southern Shores, NC, and Fitch and Associates, out of Platte City, MO will appear before a selection committee this week, and present their respective cases for being chosen to conduct a study on the county’s current EMS operation.
Burns, who along with special projects director Steve Newton and Emergency Services Director Scott Stoller, will make up the selection committee, said that The Polaris Group will make their presentation On Wednesday, September 9 at 2 p.m. In the second floor conference room.
Fitch and Associates will follow on Thursday afternoon with their presentation, which will also take place at 2 p.m.
The presentations will be open to the public, and Burns said he hopes to see representatives from the various rescue squads, EMS units and medical care providers present for the proposals. The three goals are to select a firm, define the scope of the study, and negotiate a price. Committee member Steve Newton said that the focus will be on determining how well each firm is responding the terms of the requests for proposals that the County issued several weeks ago.
“The hope of the committee is that one or both of these companies will present a very focused and specific approach to the study. We want to be able to report to the Council with a recommendation that we all feel will serve our needs. That will also allow the Council to make a choice quickly, and to get the actual study process started as soon as possible.”
A number of squads and EMS units in the county are struggling financially for a number of reasons. Changes in medicare payments under the Affordable Care Act, or Obama care, has impacted the way in which squads are paid, or not paid, for non-emergent transportation of patients. Some squads, such as Williamston’s, are suffering from poor management as well. SLED is currently investigating several allegations of misuse of funds within the Williamston unit. Those difficulties in large part spurred the realization that significant changes may be needed.
Greg Shore, owner of Medshore, a private ambulance service with locations across the state, is also preparing a presentation. In recent weeks,he has traveled around the county, attempting to rally the troops, so to speak. Shore’s message, according to some who have attended the meetings, is that the squads would fare better if they form a consortium and work together.
Greenville Hospital System’s efforts to assume the ambulance operations in that county have been contested by St. Francis Bon Secour, which has expressed concerns that patients would be transported to Greenville Memorial, perhaps against their wishes. Similar concerns that AnMed would have a similar inside line with local ambulance providers have been expressed by some squads.