After months of talks between local government officials and Mission Health, negotiations over ambulance service in Madison County are over.
Commissioners unanimously approved a one-year contract with Mission Aug. 22 to continue round-the-clock staffing for ambulance services at headquarters in Marshall, Mars Hill and Hot Springs.
The $1,095,848 deal expires June 30, 2018 and reflects a 2 percent increase over the county contribution for the 2016-17 budget year. The deal also outlines rates for ambulance patients in Madison County, who will continue to be charged $585 plus $8.55 per mile for an ambulance trip.
A four-year deal between Mission and the county expired at the end of June. Though commissioners did budget for a 2 percent increase in ambulance costs during budget talks in May, Mission did not submit its initial contract offer until after the county had completed its budget process.
In June, commissioners rejected Mission’s initial offer, which asked for a 4 percent increase in county funding. Rick Lee, the executive director of emergency services for Mission, then presented the board with two more contract proposals at a July work session. The offers would have met the commissioners’ goal for a 2 percent increase at the cost of service cuts. One Mission proposal would have stopped ambulance staffing in Hot Springs for two hours each day and the other would have cut services for three hours each day in Marshall. None of the commissioners voiced support for service cuts in open session; both proposals including reduced ambulance hours were never seriously considered or discussed by the board in public meetings.
“The commissioners were clear that service reductions was not something they wanted to see,” County Manager Forrest Gilliam said to the roughly 50 residents, many wearing hats and T-shirts with logos from local fire departments, gathered inside the A-B Tech lecture hall for the August meeting.
Gilliam went on to address what he called “inaccurate speculation” that the county had considered contracting ambulance services with other providers. “There were no conversations with any alternative provider, and no commissioner ever talked about an alternative provider,” Gilliam said.
“I heard that rumor, and it’s…