Possible Changes with Ambulance Service Could Affect Rector

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ambulance service in Rector and Corning could face possible closure in the future due to potential developments on the horizon in Greene County, Arkansas Methodist Medical Center President and CEO Barry Davis said Tuesday.

Medic One Ambulance Service of Jonesboro addressed the Paragould City Council last month requesting to be placed in rotation with AMMC on Greene County 911 calls. As of today, AMMC is the only service in Paragould, Corning and Rector and financially is a "break-even venture," according to Davis.

Davis said the proposition of another ambulance service in Greene County may sound good in theory. Most people might think more ambulances would provide better service, Davis said, but that is not necessarily the case.

AMMC averages 16.6 transports per day, 12 of those calls are emergency runs and four are transfers. Those numbers include Rector and Corning. "There may be 30 runs one day and only two the next, and many times even though sirens are heard it doesn't necessarily mean we are transporting patients," said Shay Willis, AMMC public relations director.

"Many times they are reacting to a call of an accident or to a home and the person decides not to go to the hospital, which we are out the cost of that run," Davis added.

AMMC ambulance service does not turn a profit; in fact it barely breaks even, according to the hospital officials. In years past the service has operated in the red more often than black. All proceeds go into running the service, and in the cases of Rector and Corning "more often than not turn in negative reports financially, which causes AMMC not to be reimbursed," Davis said. "But it is a service we provide because we try to be responsive to our neighbors' needs."

In an open letter to the citizens of Greene County, he asked residents to contact their city council members in support of the record established by AMMC and to emphasize the financial threat a for-profit service could bring to the hospital's operation.

"While competition in the marketplace for most business activity is desirable, in the area of emergency medical services, it can be a detriment to the community," Davis said in the open letter. "Even the Arkansas legislature has recognized that emergency medical services and ambulance operations may suffer when subjected to competitive practices. The Attorney General has also rendered an opinion that cities and counties can select a single entity to provide those services for that very reason."

AMMC's ambulance service currently employs 31 full-time and 21 part-time employees.

In his open letter, Davis said that, if costs escalate and profits (if any) decline, it is more than likely one service will discontinue its operation.

The implication for Rector and Corning is that a private, for-profit service would not continue to serve the two Clay County communities.

Rector mayor Teresa Roofe has sent emails to each Paragould city council member telling them how much AMMC's ambulance service is appreciated in her community, noting "I hope they take it into consideration what adding another ambulance service could do to Rector."

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