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KDMC requests $80K from county to help buy a new ambulance

King’s Daughters Medical Center needs a new ambulance.

Alvin Hoover, the non-profit hospital’s CEO, appeared before the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors Monday and requested the county provide one-half of the cost of purchasing a new box-type ambulance. That would be $80,000 from the county to purchase the $160,000 ambulance.

KDMC’s ambulance service currently owns four ambulances. Two are fully operational and are in use on a daily basis. A third is used as often as possible, but spends much of its time in one of the maintenance repair bays, Hoover said. With over 300,000 miles on the vehicle and its repeated mechanical problems, it’s simply not a vehicle than can be relied upon for emergency services on a day-to-day basis, he said.

The fourth ambulance also has racked up over 300,000 miles and is used only when necessary. Ideally for the hospital, both ambulances need to be replaced, he said.

Hoover said the hospital employs over 35 people across shifts in the ambulance service, with 25 full-time positions. Two-thirds of these are paramedics and the other third are emergency medical technicians. One or two paramedics go out on every ambulance call.

Doug Falvey, District 5 supervisor, said he had received several complaints about slow response time. Hoover replied that their typical response time, however, is very good.

Referring to a specific recent wreck, Hoover was asked why an ambulance took 15 minutes to respond to a crash on Hwy. 51.

Two crews were out on 911 emergency calls at the time of that accident, Hoover explained. The office scrambled to find an available paramedic and sent that person out in a third unit with an EMT as quickly as possible. Considering their people were already providing medical assistance elsewhere and another paramedic had to be brought in, Hoover felt a 15-minute response time was not bad.

District 1 Supervisor Jerry Wilson also voiced a concern over what he felt was a bad response from the ambulance service. One of his men needed emergency medical help and no ambulance was available during the hours the hospital keeps three crews on hand — from noon until midnight. If not for the presence of Emergency Management Director Clifford Galey, who provided CPR, the man would have received no immediate medical help.

“I’m very disappointed there was no ambulance there to help,” Wilson said. “If it weren’t for Clifford Galey, he’d have gotten no help. That bothers me.”

“Well, that bothers me, too,” agreed Hoover, “but those three ambulances were probably out providing quality care to three other people who needed it, as well.”

With the amount of staff and the quality of the available trucks, Hoover said it is not currently possible to have four ambulances available at one time.

The ambulances provide an average of five transfers out of the county every day of the week to facilities that provide services not currently available at KDMC. An average of 15 to 16 calls are responded to on a daily basis. Also, on average, 61 percent of those calls are to locations within the city of Brookhaven.

Hoover requested the supervisors continue to provide the hospital with $100,000 — the same annual subsidy they have provided historically. The county has provided a subsidy to the hospital each year for over 20 years, according to County Administrator David Fields.

The city provides KDMC a subsidy of $30,000 annually. The additional request for $80,000 — half the cost of a new ambulance — was an appeal to the county.

Hoover reminded the board that the county helped purchase a van ambulance one year ago. He said the city has not in the past provided any financial assistance to buy an ambulance.

“The city has never been willing to pay any part of that cost to purchase an ambulance,” Hoover said.

Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop said the city may be looking to the county because of taxes, since city residents pay county property taxes, as well.

The board will consider KDMC’s request in the upcoming budget.

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In other board business:

• Wirt Peterson, executive director of the Southwest Planning and Development District, presented a budget request for $19,900, the same funding as requested in previous years, to match state and federal funds of the same amount from each.

• Dave Van, executive director of Region 8 Mental Health Services, made a budget request for $50,000, the same funding as provided by the county in previous years. 

“We have in Lincoln County comprehensive services available that are not available in many places nationwide,” Van said.

• The board denied a request to cancel a penalty on a late vehicle license plate renewal because the board had no legal authority to fulfill the request.

• Clifford Galey requested the board authorize funds from the 911 budget — approximately $3,000 — to purchase eDispatch equipment. The system sends out text messages to first responders in addition to radio calls. Galey said the majority of volunteer fire fighters in the county are unable to receive radio calls consistently due to FCC regulations that have lowered available frequencies. These fire fighters can, however, receive text messages.

The board approved the system to be funded from the current 911 budget.

• Bruick Larkin, wildlife specialist with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, made a budget request of $7,500. Larkin reported that 197 beavers had been removed across 42 complaints, one bat complaint had been handled and 47 wild swine had been removed in the past year.

• The board approved a request to strike a property tax chargeback on a property because the property had been sold and the new owner had no way to know a chargeback had been attached to the property.

• The board denied a land valuation objection for a property that had increased in valuation by 23 percent over the previous year. The reevaluation took place as part of a county-wide effort to make sure properties are classified properly, and was also influenced by the introduction of a large porch and three out buildings on the property.

“I have not seen anything to lead me to believe this was a misevaluation,” said Tax Assessor Blake Pickering.

• County Engineer Ryan Holmes updated the board on the progress of the paving project in the industrial park. Phase one was completed over the weekend, Holmes said, with the exception of some last gravel work. Phase one encompassed paving West Manufacturers Boulevard, half of Fender Trail and two railroad crossovers. Phase two — paving East Manufacturers Boulevard, the second half of Fender Trail and two railroad crossovers — is scheduled to begin later in the week, depending upon weather.

• The board scheduled a docket meeting for Wednesday at 9 a.m.

• The tax assessor’s office will have its land auction on Monday, Aug. 28, from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. An information session open to the public will be held Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the State Room. The final day to pay taxes owed to keep properties from being forfeited is Aug. 24.