Ambulance Panel says: SEOEMS still viable

Published 10:19 am Friday, September 10, 2010

The once financially beleaguered ambulance district that serves Lawrence County got another vote of confidence after an ad hoc committee set up to explore emergency service options said the Southeast Emergency Medical Services should stay in business.

That was the report Lawrence County Commissioners heard at their regular Thursday meeting.

“SEOEMS has experienced some operational difficulties, but we believe we can overcome those difficulties with the right strategy,” Bruce Trent told the commissioners. Trent was spokesman for the committee that includes Lonnie Best, the county’s 911 director, Commissioner Jason Stephens and Ironton Fire Chief Tom Runyon.

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This summer all three counties had advanced the district $385,000 to cover health insurance, pension, IRS and payroll.

“SEOEMS is a good organization,” Trent said. “We are committed to keep the district together if that is the best for Lawrence County.”

The tri-county organization potentially lost two of its members when commissioners for Athens and Jackson counties voted last month to leave the district by the first of next year. That has prompted the question of can Lawrence County maintain the district alone, which led to the formation of the committee.

The committee offered three options for the future of ambulance service:

Keep SEOEMS together as a three-county entity and possibly add members.

Keep SEOEMS in a different configuration, or

Have each county start its own emergency service.

“We feel (the last) would result in the duplication of services,” Trent said. “We want the citizens to know when they call 911, there will be an ambulance dispatched to their house.”

On Tuesday at its regular monthly meeting the SEOEMS board will hear about the state of the financial health of the district after ambulance billing changes were implemented that cut the accounts receivable turnaround.

“Collections for July and August have gone up significantly and Lawrence County is right on target,” Stephens said.

After the meeting, Stephens said that revenue for June through August has increased at least 30 percent from patient accounts.

“We are beginning to run it more like a business than a government entity,” Stephens said after the meeting. “My goal is to have it self-sufficient.”