OCH moves for potential city EMS district

OCH Regional Medical Center CEO and Administrator Richard Hilton discusses the Board of Trustees agenda during its meeting Tuesday night. (Photo by Logan Kirkland, SDN)
Staff Writer

The OCH Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees authorized hospital administration to make a proposal to the city regarding its potential EMS District and ambulance service during the Starkville Board of Aldermen’s next meeting.

Aldermen voted unanimously to allow interested parties wanting to be involved in its potential new EMS District and ambulance service to provide a presentation during its first meeting in May.

At the beginning of the meeting, the trustees asked Director of Emergency Medical Services Michael Hunt to discuss his thoughts on the city's proposed EMS District.

Hunt said he was in contact with the Starkville Fire Chief Charles Yarbrough on April 12, where Yarbrough expressed interest in the possibility of creating the district. He said he was surprised to find the item on the agenda.

"A lot of physicians and a lot of people in the community called me with concerns and questions," Hunt said.

Hunt brought assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics at University of Mississippi Medical Center Dr. Damon Allen Darsey to discuss his experience with EMS districts and the problems and benefits it could produce.

Darsey said health care in Oktibbeha County should reside out of the OCH facility. He said when someone who is picked up from an ambulance has issues, OCH has the history of its patients on hand.

"They can look at your chart in real-time," Darsey said. "That simply doesn't happen in other places."

Darsey said most of the money made from ambulance service comes from transfers. He said if the transfers is taken off of the table, funds would have to be found elsewhere. He said most services can’t make it on a medium-volume 911 system like Oktibbeha County has now.

For his own county, Darsey said they had a group fielding 911 calls while they only did transfers.

"We would have to reduce service to make it where it's not absolutely killing us from a budgetary perspective," Darsey said. "Then we had to come up with another way to respond to those calls when they were not available."

Another concern for Darsey was if someone in-house were to make a mistake, it can be fixed on the spot, but when someone from a private company comes in, they wouldn't have any quality oversight, but are still being held accountable.

"You lose really total care of the clinical quality picture that is out there," Darsey said. "So we have responsibility over things that we really don't have control over."

OCH Regional Medical Center CEO and Administrator Richard Hilton said he hopes the city can see the advantages of accepting their proposal at the next meeting. He said with their proposal, the hospital will do its best to satisfy some of the expectations the city has.

"I would hope that they would see we do have something to offer that can keep everything intact with what we have for a unified EMS service and not be fragmented between two different systems," Hilton said.

As for specifics of OCH's proposal, Hilton said because they do not know who else is going to present, he doesn't want to give away their strategy.

He did say the trustees understand the city's expectations and will present what they think will fulfill those needs.

When asked how OCH plans to fund the service, Hilton said the trustees are looking at providing the service with the resources it currently has.

"We're reviewing our billing system as it is now," Hilton said. "We've been given some direction from other hospitals and they use external billing services."

Hilton said a company coming in would want its transfers because it is a revenue source, but they would not want to give them up.

He said to be successful long term, the transfers are something OCH needs to have.

"Any time you fragment a service, it will potentially weaken both entities," Hilton said.