Prairie Township and Lutheran EMS Kosciusko reached a last-minute contract agreement Thursday amid concerns with the service expressed by Trustee Julia Goon and allegations she would bar Lutheran from responding in the township.
The new agreement is a one-year term at a cost of $7,000, which is half of what the township previously paid, Goon said today. The proposed 2016 contract was three years at $10,500 a year, which the township tabled in September.
It still states that Prairie Township cannot contract with any other ambulance service, but Goon said she wanted to stress that the township is not required by law to contract with an ambulance service and that anyone who calls 911 can still request any ambulance service they want. She noted that some people in Prairie use Tri-County Ambulance or Nappanee EMS.
“Even if I would not have signed the contract, anyone who called 911 would still have gotten an ambulance,” she said. Now, “Lutheran is guaranteed this amount of money whether they come into my township one time or 1,000 times.”
The benefit, she added, is that the township is guaranteed ambulance coverage 24-7.
Goon said she reached a verbal agreement late Thursday with Brian Bauer, CEO of Lutheran Health Network, who “agreed to my offer.” She later signed the contract, reaching an agreement one day before the previous contract between Prairie and the former Multi-Township EMS was set to expire.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement earlier today with Prairie Township for EMS services,” Kosciusko Community Hospital said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “Lutheran EMS agencies and hospitals work together to coordinate across the region and provide patients with needed emergency care, resulting in faster response times and better health outcomes. We look forward to continuing to serve the emergency needs of Kosciusko County.”
Prairie was one of a handful of local governments that postponed renewal of their contracts last year, after Lutheran Health Network bought the ambulance service and then Tri-County Ambulance announced it would expand coverage into the county. Officials in some towns also hesitated at the three-year term of the new contract.
The negotiations followed a letter to the Times-Union Goon sent Wednesday in which she questioned the sale of the not-for-profit ambulance service to a private, for-profit hospital company. She also noted that townships are not legally required to provide paramedic services or ambulance transport, only fire protection and first responder services.
“Townships are not required to provide medic or ambulance transport service unless the township chooses to do so. A township does not have to contract with any EMS service provider,” Goon wrote, adding that residents have a choice for healthcare services in the county and encouraging them to research services and charges.
She denied later Wednesday a rumor that she intended to send a letter to Kosciusko County Dispatch saying Lutheran EMS would not be allowed to respond to calls in Prairie Township.
“This is totally bent out of the truth,” she wrote. “As always, any 911 caller may request whoever they want for emergency services.”
(Story By The Times Union)