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Drive to put countywide ambulance district on Cape April ballot

Monday, September 22, 2008

A four-person political action group has formed with the intent of convincing Cape Girardeau County voters to support a countywide ambulance district.

"None of us four are going to make a penny off this. None of us are going to work for the district, or run the district," said Randy Everett of Jackson.

Everett, who teaches paramedic and emergency medical technician classes for Cape Girardeau Public Schools, said he and his wife, registered nurse Carla Everett, along with another registered nurse, Barbara Mueller, and paramedic respiratory therapist Ron Kiplinger, started working on the idea more than a year ago. Nine months ago, he said, they formed a political action group. They hired a lawyer and started putting together a six-page website, www.voteyesforems.org.

Everett said his group is convinced that people living in rural areas of the county would benefit from an ambulance district because it would allow vehicles and technicians to be posted throughout the county rather than focused on the county's two largest cities, Cape Girardeau and Jackson.

Everett said his group met earlier this year with various first responders throughout the county to see if the ballot initiative would garner support. He said about a month ago, petitions were distributed around that county and have so far drawn 1,000 signatures of the 3,700 it needs. The petition signatures would have to be verified by the county clerk before the proposal would go on the ballot. The group's website indicates the measure is intended for an April vote.

The county currently has an exclusive contract with the private Cape County Ambulance Service. The service charges between $150 and $680 per run; fees are due at the time of service, according to documents filed with the county. Everett said a countywide ambulance district would be supported by a permanent property tax, to the tune of about $60 a year, and governed by a 6-member board of directors elected by voters.

"I don't want to speak bad about the current service," Everett said. "That's not what we're about. It's time we had better service for the whole county. Rural areas can be covered better with decreased response times for the patients and if they were funded correctly, in a not-for-profit, we should be able to have modern and up-to-date training as well as be better able to handle the increasing disaster needs of the county."

Everett said he attended a meeting Tuesday with city and county officials as well as Southeast Missouri Hospital and Saint Francis Medical Center, but that he was more of a witness than a participant. He declined to comment on the discussion at the meeting, but said ambulance service is "a public safety issue. Most people wouldn't expect a private police department or a private fire department."

A public meeting is planned for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the New McKendree United Methodist Church, 1770 S. Hope St. in Jackson. For details, call 204-1917.


335-6611, extension 127

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Our existing ambulance service is just fine. I believe in don't fix it if it isn't broke.

-- Posted by Beaker on Mon, Sep 22, 2008, at 10:47 AM

Emergency ambulance service charges $400.00 a run to the hospital here in the city limits of Cape despite what level of care is required for the patient.

-- Posted by BABE on Mon, Sep 22, 2008, at 6:02 PM

Beaker must never had to have used the ambulance service in Cape.

I remember when I first had to call 911 back in the early 90's. My son had fallen and blood was squirting out his eye. We live 3 blocks from the hospital. I about fell over when I then received a bill for $300 (after insurance) for that hospital ride. This was 15 years ago!

-- Posted by Skeptic1 on Mon, Sep 22, 2008, at 6:56 PM

I've got a better one for ya'll.......just this summer the so called service we have now charged my daughter a $150 just because she was at a friends house when a grease fire started and she didn't need any medical treatment. The crazy thing about it was, they made me go over and sign refusing the treatment because she was underage; but mailed the bill to my friend's house. And it isn't broken?

-- Posted by countrygirl71 on Mon, Sep 22, 2008, at 8:56 PM

Not broken, eh? Check with local public safety agencies and you will find that the response times for the ambulances are getting longer and longer, even in Cape and Jackson. In the county, it can take 30-45 minutes just to get to the house and then there is the trip back to the hospital. So much for the "Golden Hour". Ask your local fire departments why they started using your fire tax dollars to provide EMS services in the county when you county tax dollars are already going to the private EMS service. Reason, to provide the people they protect with prompt medical care. Cape Girardeau and Jackson both started it for that reason and the ambulances are based in those cities.

If you or a loved one needs transferred to a St Louis hospital at 2AM, you better be ready to pay over $700 up front before leaving regardless of age, condition, or who you think you are! I was told that other area ambulance districts will bill you after insurance for the trip, not tell you pay now or no ride. This is not a taxi service and while it may be a business, it is to save lives, not turn dollars. St Louis Hospitals do not expect payment upfront, why should your ambulance to get you there? Big difference between For-Profit and Non-Profit Services.

As I understand it, the county is using our tax money to pay a private company with little accountability and oversight.

-- Posted by Luck_Has_IT on Tue, Sep 23, 2008, at 1:44 AM

These are not unreasonable charges. I live in an area that has an ambulance district. My wife has had asthma attacks and needed an ambulance to take her 3 miles to the local hospital. The cost: $984. That was after health insurance. I do not get how setting up an ambulance district would circumvent those costs. To me, it's just another taxing entity. Yes, I agree that deploying fire trucks to tend to the injured is a terrible waste of money, especially when the ambulance beats the fire trucks to the scene. As for dealing with response times for the rural residents, I would ask yourself the reason for the slow response time - is it hard to get to your residence because of gravel roads? Would paving those roads help? Traffic shouldn't be an issue. If the firemen are trained paramedics, then I guess I can see the need to deploy them to care for the injured if the ambulance can't be there in a timely manner. But I think we're trying to shoot a mouse with a cannon here by setting up an ambulance district.

-- Posted by Beaker on Tue, Sep 23, 2008, at 1:04 PM

Frazzled, I did need an ambulance in Cape in the 70s and 80s for family members. It was the same private service then as it is now, and it provided the same level of expert care as it does now. I don't mind paying any amount of money to get a family member to a hospital - the most recent case was to a Memphis hospital as my aunt was suffering from a brain hemorrhage. It was money I owed and was money well spent, and I had no problem whatsoever, paying money I owed for this type of thing!

-- Posted by Beaker on Tue, Sep 23, 2008, at 1:16 PM

Beaker: Is that you? Is this the same Beaker that lives in another ambulance district (NSCAD) and whose house is only three miles from a hospital (Scott City) and who makes a living off of above mentioned ambulance district (NSCAD)???

-- Posted by batt403 on Tue, Sep 23, 2008, at 6:24 PM

Cape County DOES need a public ambulance district!

Cape County could easily fund a district that would be well equipped with several strategically located stations. One of the primary advanatges would be to have contol over the district by elected board memebers and no I do not think that you currently have any control over the private ambulance service who is subsidised by your tax dollars already.

-- Posted by batt403 on Tue, Sep 23, 2008, at 6:30 PM

If y'all think you won't still get a bill with a tax-supported ambulance district, you're mistaken.

-- Posted by MarionMorrison on Wed, Sep 24, 2008, at 7:13 AM

Sure your still going to get a bill, but, it would be a bill not a payment due upfront. Does anyone out there expect to be transported by any ambulance service and expect their $150 (example) in taxes cover the cost? I don't...

You are supporting the service with your tax dollars and the goal of the service should be to provide the highest possible care while charging the lowest fee possible.

I for one do not like the idea that any ambulance service, public or private, should charge a person for a refusal of medical of care or for being "checked out".

-- Posted by batt403 on Wed, Sep 24, 2008, at 2:14 PM

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