By NATHAN GREGORY
OCH Regional Medical Center Administrator and Chief Executive Officer Richard Hilton will appear before the Starkville Board of Aldermen Tuesday night to ask for reconsideration of a decision it made Jan. 3 to suspend payments for ambulance services.
Through an arrangement the city, Oktibbeha County and Mississippi State University have maintained with OCH in excess of 30 years, Starkville budgets a set amount each fiscal year for ambulance service. In the recent past, the county paid more than $200,000 annually for the service and MSU set aside $30,000. The city made annual payments of $40,000.
Both the city and county have used assistance from Emergency Medical Services Operating Fund grants to meet the amount they’ve budgeted.
The board voted 5-2 in favor of reallocating the remaining $30,000 the city was to pay for the fiscal year to its contingency fund. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver and Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey voted against the measure.
This fiscal year, a $15,000 grant annually accepted and used by the city to fund the EMSOF service was not received. Starkville Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill said that was the case due to a failure to attend and participate in a course required to receive funding.
Despite the error, the city previously budgeted its usual $40,000 contribution without accommodating for the grant. Mayor Parker Wiseman said despite not receiving the grant, there was enough budgeted to fund the service, which is why he advised against pulling the funding.
Hilton said he will discuss reasons why the board should reverse its decision, including statistics that show that two thirds of OCH ambulance service runs are inside the city limits.
“I want to share with (board members) how some of the arrangements are between the hospital, the city and (Starkville) Fire Department and the number of (ambulance) runs we make in the city in comparison to the support the city is providing,” Hilton said. “This commitment has been a team effort that started over 30 years ago between all three entities to support maintenance and operational costs that would be there to cover shortfalls that would not be covered by billable services. I just want to emphasize that I would really like to see all three entities staying in harmonious support of emergency medical service. Hopefully by appearing and sharing information it can help change (board members’) minds.”
Wiseman said OCH budgeted a $397,000 loss for ambulance services last fiscal year and disagreed with the board’s decision to pull funding.
“I do hope the board will reinstate funding for the ambulance service. The city, county university and hospital have banded together for quite a long time to ensure that we have a quality ambulance service in our community, and I disagree with the decision for the city to withdraw its support from that service,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to the other parties that contribute year after year to the service.”