EMS provider in South Dale still unclear

As far as the Dale County Commission is concerned, the issue was resolved with the resolution passed Sept. 24. Some of the municipalities in the southern part of Dale County disagree.

Which emergency medical services providers in South Dale County should receive tag tax funds was again the topic of discussion at the Dale County Commission meeting Nov. 12.

At the Sept. 24 meeting, the commissioners voted by majority to appoint the Echo EMS to provide EMS services to the towns of Napier Field, Grimes, Pinckard, Newton, Midland City and the unserved areas of south Dale County.

The decision was made because it has been nearly a year since Dale County voters in January 2018 approved a $5 tag tax earmarked for the emergency medical services providers in Dale County and the south end of the county disagrees who is the EMS provider for their area.

Except for the 3 percent of the proceeds retained by the Dale County Revenue Commissioner’s office for administrative costs, the funds are distributed quarterly by the commission to municipalities and emergency medical service organizations for EMS services.

At the commission meeting July 23 the commissioners gave a 30-day deadline to the South Dale municipalities to present a viable EMS plan, adding that in the absence of such a plan they would give the tag tax money to another EMS to provide services.

With no “viable plan” being presented by the Sept. 24 meeting, the commission passed a resolution appointing Echo EMS to be the EMS provider for the south end of the county citing the legislation that states, “In the event the county commission determines that proper EMS services are not being adequately provided in an area of the county, the commission may divert a portion of the funds to contract with private EMS services as needed in the unserved/underserved area.”

The resolution passed Sept. 24 included a provision for municipalities to provide documented evidence of services for at least 90 days “and having been fully responsive in a timely manner to dispatch assignments by the Ozark/Dale County E911 Call Center and their EMS service has sufficient facilities, equipment and professional full time staff.” The municipality could, after that, petition the commission for the tag tax funds.

At the Nov. 12 meeting the commissioners were asked to approve payment of each municipality’s request with the exception of the $15,813.86 request from Midland City EMS.

Representatives from Midland City told commissioners that they are supporting the Midland City EMS until such time as the multi-municipality South Dale EMS is certified by the state. They questioned why Midland City has to “petition” the commission with emergency response and staffing numbers when the other entities have routinely received requested funds quarterly. They questioned also why Echo EMS had been the designated EMS responder for the south Dale municipalities.

“I think the answer to that is that we didn’t have sufficient service being operational on the south part of the county,” Dale County Attorney Henry Steagall replied. “And the commission was required to take some steps to get that done so they appointed Echo EMS but they put a provision in there that any town that wants to operate their own EMS system can file a petition for relief from this action.

“Give us 90 days of data on your runs showing that you are operational, that you’ve got full time professional people, that you’ve got equipment, you’ve got a building that you own or lease,” Steagall said.

Steagall said that Midland City had handled their own dispatch calls until Oct. 3 when they joined the Ozark-Dale County E911 dispatch center. “So 90 days from Oct. 3 will be the minimum time required to show dates on your calls,” he said. “You have to petition the commission and show your facilities, what equipment you own and your professional full time staff. There’s more to it than just bringing up some expenses in a folder. You need to follow the terms of this resolution and give us a petition.

“It’s never been done before so we’ll work with you on how to do that,” Steagall added.

Midland City EMS Director Phillip Owings challenged the commission’s use of the words “professional” EMS staff. “You said professional people?” Owings asked the commission. “In any EMS company you cannot work on an ambulance unless you are a state or national Registered Certified EMT, EMT Advanced or Paramedic.

“So anybody who applies for any EMS company has to have EMT state basic, advanced, paramedic or advanced life support paramedic. You can’t just throw Farmer Joe from the field on an ambulance,” Owings said. “Every single one of the employees that are part of the Midland City Rescue have certifications and they are up to date.”

“Are you a certified EMT or paramedic?” asked Dale County Commissioner Frankie Wilson, who is also the chairman of the Ozark-Dale County E911 Board.

“I was. I’m going back to get my license,” replied Owings.

“But you’re not now?” Wilson repeated.

“No sir. But I have 26 years (experience) in it. Once I get things established where I can go back and recertify I will,” Owings said. “But I’ve been in this business 26 years.”

“I do know that y’all have made more calls than you did last last quarter,” said Wilson. “I’m fully aware of that. I think we all are. But the chairman is going by the resolution that was passed at the last meeting last quarter. I think none of us are not in support of South Dale EMS but it’s pretty simple, you have to get the documentation together, get your South Dale EMS license, determine who is paying the bills, those types of things. Are you responding within the seven minutes the state requires to every call?”

The commission passed a resolution amending the existing resolution by cutting the time for municipalities not being currently funded to be allowed to petition the commission for tag tax funding to 60 instead of 90 days.

The next meeting of the Dale County Commission is Dec. 10. A work session begins at 10 a.m. and is immediately followed by a voting meeting. Both meetings are open to the public.

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