Ind County. struggles to provide emergency services after ambulance provider quits contract


Mike Grant
Washington Times-Herald

WASHINGTON, Ind. – Martin County officials believe they are close to resolving an issue with the ambulance service after its service provider pulled out with 10 months remaining on the contract. Martin County had contracted with Knox County Ambulance Service to provide advanced life support to the county, but that came to an abrupt halt earlier this month.

“I received a call from the state at 10 p.m. on the 21st saying the current provider was retiring at midnight,” Martin County Ambulance Manager Jeramey Osborn said. “The state allowed us to continue our operations as a basic service. We never really lost service in the county, but we had two hours to find something.”

“Our ambulance manager has hired people and we are in business,” Martin County Commissioner Paul George said. (Martin County Photo/EMS)

The problem was created when the previous supplier’s operation began to collapse in Vincennes, then spread to contracted service for Martin County.

“Our old provider couldn’t keep a medical director, so they gave him an extension. We were with Knox County and we thought it would be fine,” Martin County Commissioner Paul George said. “Because he didn’t have a medical director, he couldn’t even provide us with basic service. We thought he was going to continue working with us, and then on August 21, he called the state and told them at midnight he had finished.”

The county mustered a certified Knox County ambulance and assembled enough staff to keep running errands.

“Our ambulance manager has hired people and we are in business. We have one (ambulance) that was previously owned by McClure. It looks like we will be well on staff,” George said. “It’s going to work pretty well.”

The county purchased a pair of used ambulances at $45,000 and $55,000 each. These will be added to the service once they are all inspected and cleared. The first could get state approval this week. And although some things are improving, the service is not where local authorities want it to be.

“We are currently running under the state medical director as medical director until we can get an affiliation with a hospital,” George said.

“We are operating as a basic service at the moment. A basic service is just providing basic life support. We can’t do much else. We can transport people but we can’t do anything invasive An advance ward or paramedic can administer medication and other life-saving procedures,” Osborn said. “Once we get our ambulances certified, we’ll be closer to getting back to where we need to be. We will still be a basic service until we have completed all the basics to be paramedic level. Hopefully we can do it in a month.”

With only limited ambulance resources, Martin County worked with mutual aid partners like IU Health, Daviess Community and Jasper Memorial Ambulance Services for backup and assistance. Officials say they are trying to work out a deal with Memorial to become Martin County’s sponsor.

“We are negotiating with Jasper Memorial to be our sponsoring hospital. This will then allow us to step in as paramedic services,” Osborn said.

Another change was the location of the ambulance service at the Martin County Fairgrounds.

“We have set up the service at the EMA headquarters at the fairgrounds, which is halfway between Shoals and Loogootee,” George said. “When they built it, they put up a floor. It was empty, so we’re using it as staff accommodation. We have a bay and the rest is for the fire department.”

While things are not yet back to normal. Officials say the jamming that has been made is making some ambulance services available.

“We moved to basic service and were unsure of what we were going to do for a while, but we never lost service,” Osborn said.

“It’s a little sigh of relief from where we were and what we were up against,” George said.


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