Reagan County, Hospital District At Odds Over Contract

Reagan County, Hospital District At Odds Over Contract

Anum Valliani

NewsWest 9

REAGAN COUNTY - A longstanding contract in Reagan County has been the cause of some conflict recently. For years now, the Reagan Hospital District has paid the county for the EMS services they use. That was until October when they stopped using the service.

"We found out they did it on purpose, they didn't tell us, they just quit paying," Reagan County Commissioner, Ron Galloway, said. 

But according to Pamela Clark, CEO of the Hospital District, a county representative came to one of their board meetings and said they were no longer providing service as of October first.

"We understood that to be termination of the contract," she said.

So the County hadn't received their payments since then. That's more than $3,300 a month since October. The approximately $42,000 per year is supposed to be the district's contribution for the EMS service which includes ambulance transport, patient transfer and equipment. It is meant to add up to one EMT's annual salary.
At present, the county's service provides two EMT's 24/7 but they say a problem arises when they have to travel long distances to transfer patients. Someone else in the county would have to be on the clock to help out the hospital.

But Clark refuted the magnitude of their dependence on the county. According to her, most transfers are actually taken by their family members and always have been. She also said that an average of about five people rely on the EMS service per month.  

"We still feel like there's some responsibility from the district for the ambulance service," Galloway said.

The district hasn't been struggling financially either.

"We're not as rich as the county but we're not destitute," Clark said.

County Judge Larry Isom and Galloway said the county has the same tax base as the district and needs to concentrate on their own budget. Galloway, who drafted the original contract at least 12 years ago when he was an administrator at the hospital, admitted it needs to be revised. So the county and district met last week to negotiate and possibly draft a new one. He said the county attorney put up the idea that instead of having a clause where a party could terminate the contract by not paying, for the contract to expire at the end of a budget year- both the hospital and district operate under the same budget calendar - that way each entity could concentrate on how to spend their funds as well.

"But they weren't too acceptable to it," Isom said.

"We ended up deciding to pay thru February, so they were, for sure, aware that they were the ones who ended the contract," Clark said. 

"Both entities are interested in taking care of our citizens. I hope they realize that they're a big part of this because that's their patient. Once this ambulance service delivers to their emergency room and they transfer that patient out, it's their patient, it's not Reagan County's patient anymore. Bottom line is, hospital district and county, both are here for the people," Galloway said. 

The district will not be paying for March or any month going forward and now they're considering a few options including providing their own transfer service. The Hospital Board is meeting on Monday to come up with suggestions and bring them to the county for what the judge said will most likely be a special meeting. 

"The fitting would be a whole lot better for everybody in town if the county and hospital are working together finally," Isom said.