SEOEMS Dissolved; county ready to start own system

Published 10:25 am Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Despite the dissolution of the ambulance district that has served Lawrence County for close to four decades, the county is ready to move forward with its own emergency service.

“I think we are ready to hire a director and start our own EMS system,” Lawrence County Commissioner Les Boggs said this morning.

Tuesday night the board of the Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Service District voted to dissolve the service that had served Lawrence, Athens and Jackson counties.

Email newsletter signup

The vote was six to three with the trio from Lawrence County voting to keep the district going.

“I still believe it is the system that serves people in Lawrence County and the other counties over the last 40 years or so,” Jason Stephens, Lawrence commissioner, said this morning. Stephens is one of the local SEOEMS representatives, along with Bruce Trent and Ironton Fire Chief Tom Runyon.

“We have made a lot of improvements, but in the eyes of the folks of Athens and Jackson, they felt it was better to go,” Stephens said. “And Lawrence County has no other choice but to go on its own.”

A meeting is scheduled this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. at the county commissioners office with MedCare and MedFlight, Columbus-based medical consultants, Boggs said.

“We may have to contract with them temporarily or if they can save us some money, we may sign permanently,” Boggs said. “We have to get our own billing numbers.”

Any emergency service must have numbers to allow it to bill Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies.

“If we sign with a contract service, by law we can use their billing numbers until we set up our own,” Boggs said. “That is just to cover ourselves.”

For months the future of the financially beleaguered emergency district has been in question. This summer Athens and Jackson county commissioners voted to leave SEOEMS, citing the economic downturn of the district.

However, recent changes in billing procedures and an advance of close to $400,000 from the three counties to SEOEMS seemed to mean that the district could remain solvent.

At the request of the Lawrence commissioners MedCare had performed an analysis of the finances of SEOEMS and determined the service had a viable future.

“It is like a vehicle that needs some things to fix up, instead of buying a new vehicle and we were in the process of correcting them,” Stephens said.

In October the district had $58,000 more in revenue than expenses, he said.

“The changes that were being implemented were having a positive effect on the district,” Stephens said. “But we have been planning for (the dissolution). I think Lawrence County is better served in a group, but we move forward.”