Aug. 31—Martin County officials believe they are close to working out a problem with ambulance service after its service provider walked away with 10 months left on the contract. Martin County had contracted with Knox County Ambulance Service to provide an advanced life support service to the county but that abruptly came to halt earlier this month.
"I got a call from the state at 10 p.m. on the 21st saying the current provider was pulling out at midnight," said Martin County Ambulance Director Jeramey Osborn. "The state allowed us to continue operations as a basic service. We never really lost service in the county, but we had two hours to get something figured out."
The problem was created as the previous provider's operation began to unravel in Vincennes and then spilled over into the contracted service for Martin County.
"Our previous provider couldn't keep a medical director so they gave him an extension. We were with Knox County and we thought everything would be good," said Martin County Commissioner Paul George. "Since he didn't have a medical director, he couldn't even provide basic service for us. We thought he was going to continue working with us and then on Aug. 21 he called the state and told them at midnight he was done."
The county rounded up a certified ambulance from Knox County and put together enough staff to keep making runs.
"Our ambulance director has people hired and we are in operation. We have one (ambulance) that was previously owned by McClure. It looks like we will be all right on staff," said George. "It's going to work our pretty well."
The county has purchased a pair of used ambulances at $45,000 and $55,000 each. Those will be added to the service once they are all inspected and cleared. The first could get approval from the state this week. And while some things are improving the service is not where local officials want it to be.
"We are currently running under the state medical director as our medical director until we can get an affiliation worked out with a hospital," said George.
"We are operating as a basic service right now. A basic service offers just basic life support. There is not much else we can do. We can transport people but we can't do anything invasive. An advanced service, or paramedic service can administer medicine and other lifesaving procedures," said Osborn. "Once we get our ambulances certified we will be closer to getting back to where we should be. We will still be a basic service until we get all the background stuff done to be on the paramedic level. Hopefully, we can get that done in a month."
With only limited ambulance resources Martin County has been working with mutual aid partners like IU Health, Daviess Community and Jasper Memorial ambulance services for back up and help. Officials say they are trying to work out a deal with Memorial to become the sponsor for Martin County.
"We are negotiating with Jasper Memorial to be our sponsoring hospital. That will allow us to then step up as a paramedic services," said Osborn.
Another change has been the location of the ambulance service to the Martin County Fairgrounds.
"We have set the service up at the EMA headquarters at the fairgrounds, which is about half way between Shoals and Loogootee," said George. "When they built that they put in an upstairs. That was empty so we are using that for living quarters for the employees. We have one bay and the rest is the fire department's."
While things are not back to normal just yet. Officials say that the scrambling that has been done is making certain ambulance service is available.
"We dropped to a basic service and were uncertain about what we were going to do for a little time but we never lost service," said Osborn.
"It is a little sigh of relief compared to where we were and what we were facing," said George.