Ambulance crews face hard choices in St. Charles

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 4, 1999

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / May 4, 1999

LULING – St. Charles Parish Hospital’s ambulance crews are faced with a dilemma – go with a new ambulance company or face downsizing – and they’re not happy about it.

Hospital administrator Fred Martinez said an employee meeting was set last night at Esperanza Restaurant in Luling to discuss the options available, with representatives of Acadian Ambulance expected to make a presentation to the employees.

Martinez said the reason for the proposed change to eliminate the hospital-run ambulance service is because of scheduled cutbacks in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for ambulance service.

Marvin Brown, formerly a paramedic with the hospital’s service whose son, Ryan, is currently with the hospital service, commented, “We were told it’s a done deal,” that the hospital would go with Acadian.

Alternately, Brown said a popular notion among the crews is establishment of an ambulance service district, set up along the lines of the St. Charles Communications (9-1-1) District, which would be financedby a local tax.

The intention would be to maintain local control over the ambulance service and maintain local employees, just as it has been.

At Monday night’s St. Charles Parish Council meeting, the rear two rows ofthe audience chamber were jammed with EMTs, awaiting a chance for the topic to be discussed by the Parish Council.

However, it was not on the agenda and was not brought up, save for Councilman Curtis Johnson expressing his curiosity about the unexpected spectators.

After the meeting, some council members had comments on the situation, emphasizing that nothing at all has been locked in or decided.

Councilman Barry Minnich said that during February’s Police Jury Association convention in Lafayette, he and several other PJA members toured Acadian Ambulance’s dispatching headquarters in town, but there was no formal presentation or even targeting St. Charles Parish.”There’s obviously a lot of misinformation out there,” Minnich said.

Councilman Bill Sirmon likewise said any change in the ambulance service would have to at least be approved by the Hospital Board and likely come before the Parish Council.

Martinez said later the hospital lost a “tremendous” amount (See AMBULANCE, Page 3A) on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement in the last fiscal year, by some 12 percent, or $300,000 on outpatient services and $350-400,000 on home health care.

Another mandated cutback in reimbursements for ambulance service is expected to go into effect in January 2000, “and we don’t know what the change will be yet.”Martinez added: “It’s not a thing where our people haven’t done an excellent job. It just won’t be feasible anymore.”As to the EMTs’ notion of a ambulance service district, Martinez commented, “It’s certainly feasible if the community is willing to be taxed more.”

Martinez said, at present and unlike most parishes, other ambulance services already operate in St. Charles Parish, competing for the business.In most parishes, though, only one service is allowed to operate.

To block other services from operating in St. Charles Parish, Martinezcontinued, would demand an immediate capital outlay for more ambulances and crews, something still not feasible, considering the reimbursement cuts.

He concluded, “People are thinking the worst. There’s a lot ofmisinformation out there.”

Return To News Stories