American Medical Response has requested a budget increase of more than $204,000 from Linn County for 2024 after several years of no increase. (Journal file photo)
By Charlene Sims, Journal staff
MOUND CITY – At the end of last week’s Linn County commission meeting on July 17, commissioners tentatively approved the American Medical Response (AMR), the ambulance service budget after discussing a few items about the budget that increased it $204,500 over last year’s budget to more than $1.1 million.
It was discussed that, in addition to the $75,000 monthly subsidy to AMR, that amount includes upkeep, utilities, pest control, insurance and utilities at the ambulance station locations.
Commissioner Jason Hightower said that he had spoken with officials from Marion County which has a similar population as Linn County. He said they paid out $1.2 million the past year for their county-run ambulance service. He said they were also having problems keeping staff there as well. people to work.
County Clerk David Lamb told the commissioners that with a county-run ambulance service, the county was taking on significantly more risk because of all of the things that could happen in the medical profession that the county could get sued for.
“Right now, with AMR running the ambulance, they are the ones on the hook for that part, not us,” said Lamb.
McCullough said that it bothered him that this was happening in the middle of a five-year contract. “What’s a contract good for?” asked McCullough.
Hightower said that AMR officials have said that if the commission did not approve budget request, they would cancel the contract.
“We can get out of this too,” said Johnson, referring to the juvenile detention contract.
Lamb explained that the contract required a 30-day notice.
The commission has met in executive session several times with Galen Anderson, AMR’s operating manager. McCullough asked if the commission should wait until Anderson was there to approve the budget.
Lamb pointed out that the budget he was presenting was including the increase that AMR had requested so there was no reason Anderson should have to be there.
This week’s meeting on Monday, July 24, after Anderson gave AMR’s weekly report, Commissioner Jim Johnson asked him to explain why AMR was increasing the budget.
Anderson explained that it had been seven or eight years since AMR had asked for an increase. He said the last time they had renewed the contract, two years ago, it was for lower amount than it had been in the previous contract.
One of the factors that allowed AMR to lower it then was that the commissioners had allowed them to keep ambulances in service longer, up to 225,000 miles. In the previous contract, the commissioners had wanted ambulances replaced at 150,000 miles.
Anderson said that AMR has always taken the approach that if you don’t have to increase the budget don’t. However, since AMR doesn’t increase it incrementally every year, when they do need an increase it looks larger.
He said the increase was needed because even though costs are going up, the number of transports stays about the same in Linn County. Anderson said that AMR had explored some expansion with other counties in this area, and that would have helped with costs but those deals had not worked out.
He said that when he talked with services in other places like Texas, Arizona, and parts of Kansas and Colorado, they were surprised to learn that Linn County had three locations, the two regular ambulance stations and the supervisor’s station located in Centerville.
Johnson asked who determines whether the fire department needs to go out on a medical assist. Anderson said that the protocols for the Linn County dispatcher determined that. He said that, depending on the diagnosis, sometimes more hands were needed for a better patient outcome.
Johnson then asked if the air ambulance service that was called for Linn County was part of AMR. Anderson said that it was a sister company. He told Johnson that it was headquartered in Denton, Texas, and they dispatched from Overland Park and Chanute.
If necessary, another company headquartered in Harrisonville was used. He said that half of the time the ground crew cancels the air ambulance.
Commission Chair Danny McCullough asked if it was typical that a county provide housing for ambulance staff.
Anderson said it is different in each rural area. In Kansas City, crews work 10- or 12- hour shifts and have very little down time between calls. In the rural areas, there might only be a few calls per week.
Anderson explained that in Harrisonville crews worked 48 hour shifts and the hospital provided housing.
Johnson said that neighboring counties that operate the ambulances through the county have less expenses.
Anderson says that it makes a big difference if a county does not have a hospital because the transporting of one patient will take that ambulance out of service for at least two to three hours.
Other budgets tentatively approved the week of July 17 included:
• GIS/Mapping for just over $165,100 an increase of about $8,300.
• EMS (Emergency Medical Services) for $12,000, no change. This budget is used to send first responders to training.
• Fair Association Budget in the amount of $128,000, no change.
McCullough moved to tentatively approve the Tri-Ko budget for nearly $80,100, but the motion died for lack of a second. When Tri-Ko director, John Platt, presented the budget three weeks ago, the commissioners questioned why Miami and Anderson Counties did not pay as much per person served as Linn County.
McCullough said he met with Platt and felt justified. No other discussion was held.
County Clerk David Lamb reported that he had scheduled a time for Southeast Kansas Mental Health (SEKMHC) to present their budget on June 19 but they did not show up, and he has not heard anything from them.