Doris Thomas, vice president of marketing/development for CHC said the reason the company will no longer provide ambulance service to Logan County is because, “We are disappointed by the lack of support and appreciation by the Logan County Fiscal Court.”
This withdraw by CHC has occurred in the first month of its new year-long agreement with the county and at the end of a 10-year relationship that has been beneficial, a little rocky, but good for the community.
“I was very disappointed to hear this news,” said Judge/Executive Logan Chick, whose office received a faxed letter from CHC Vice President Wade Stone saying the corporation would be discontinuing its ambulance service to the citizens of Logan County after the conclusion of the current agreement which expires June 30, 2009.
The brief letter further stated CHC would fully cooperate with the fiscal court for a smooth transition for the provision of ambulance services and that if Logan County decided to make a change before July 2009, CHC would assist in implementation of that decision.
“I told Mr. Stone that I hated that CHC was choosing to discontinue our relationship,” said Chick, who added that he could only speculate on why CHC felt the court was not supportive or appreciative.
Chick said this all occurred right after a citizen complained about CHC ambulance service in Tuesday's fiscal court meeting. Stone was present to give a report to the magistrates of how the service was doing financially. After his report, Chick asked him about a complaint that was made to CHC concerning transportation.
Stone told Chick and the court the complaint had been taken care of and that he had spoken with the family personally and felt confident the complaint was handled.
Chick told Stone the man who complained was in the courtroom and introduced him. Boyd Epley explained his displeasure with CHC's ambulance service. He said his wife, who was in a rehab center in Bowling Green needed to be transported to Nashville but said they were told by CHC's ambulance service that The Medical Center (which CHC owns) could do just as good a job. Epley said he thought the service had to take you where you wanted to go by law.
Stone told Epley the complaint needed to be discussed behind closed doors to which Epley responded, “The next time we have to call an ambulance I will call Nashville directly and you can keep your ambulance in Bowling Green.”
Chick said Stone called him that afternoon and said he didn't like being questioned in an open meeting. Chick said he can't believe that would be the reason CHC is pulling out.
“When $260,000 of the taxpayers' money is going to subsidize a service, questions are bound to be asked,” Chick said. “I cannot turn away a citizen who wants to come to a court meeting and express their feelings.”
In the fall of 2007, the county's 10-year agreement with CHC ran out and negotiations followed. CHC informed the county it would have to begin subsidizing the ambulance service. CHC reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in shortfalls operating in Logan County over the past 10 years. CHC verbally expressed its commitment to the citizens of the county but said they would now need to be paid in order to continue the service.
A three-year, $260,000 annual offer came across fiscal court's table last year by CHC, but it was denied by the court, which tried to get the agreement stretched out to four or five years. CHC quickly dropped its original offer to a one-year, $260,000 deal and told the court to take it or leave it. The court, having no other option at that time, took the short-term deal in hopes to continue the relationship.
“We are only into our first month of the new agreement,” said Chick, who doesn't think anything can be done to reverse CHC's decision. “I have spoken to all the magistrates and they pretty much feel the same as I do about the situation. It's unfortunate that we couldn't build up this relationship between CHC and the county. I don't know how it got destroyed, but we can't look back. We have to continue to move forward.”
Thomas told the News-Democrat & Leader that CHC's decision to leave Logan County was a final one and said CHC had provided an “11-month notice, which is sufficient time for Logan County Fiscal Court to secure an adequate substitute for the provision of emergency medical services.”
A special-called meeting of the fiscal court is scheduled for Wednesday, July 30 at 8 a.m. Chick said a three-member committee will be organized and will begin immediately investigating the county's options.
Chick said in his personal opinion, it would be best for the county to try and find a service that already had experience in the ambulance business to come into the county but said he wasn't counting out the possibility the county may have to go back to running its own service.
The county ran its own service prior to CHC; however, the county could not afford the technology CHC could provide, which included advanced life support versus basic life support and manning the ambulances with paramedics.
If the county did choose to go back into the ambulance business, Chick said there was a provision in the original agreement between CHC and the county stating that if a discontinuance of operations occurred, CHC would donate sufficient equipment to the county to operate its own service.
“I don't exactly know what that means in the way of equipment but we are definitely going to be looking into that section of the agreement,” said Chick.
Thomas told the N-D&L that the provision of the contract is still valid, and CHC would honor it.
We will work with Logan County Fiscal Court for a smooth transition including the donation of sufficient equipment to continue operation of an ambulance service,” said Thomas.