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OKOLONA – Bids were opened for ambulance services by the Chickasaw Board of Supervisors last week and CareMed is the apparent new provider for the community.

The county received two bids with MedStat, the current ambulance service provider saying it would not bid. The board took CareMed’s bid under advisement pending approval by board attorney Gary Carnathan.

Carnathan said he wanted to review the actual pay structure and if there were clauses for the county to get out of any contract signed with CareMed.

“I didn’t see any way for the county to terminate the contract if we feel we need to,” said Carnathan. “They also include a 3-percent annual increase in their fees and I want to know if that is a straight 3-percent, based on the current contract amount, or if that is compounded each year.”

Carnathan called CareMed during the meeting and was referred to their attorney.

With MedStat having given notice it will no longer be the county’s ambulance service provider at the end of this month, the board felt it was necessary to get CareMed working to set up communications with the county and begin the logistics of getting ambulances and personnel hammering out details with local first responders.

CareMed’s bid said they would provide two ambulances, personnel and supplies 24/7 annually for $95,000. They offered a second bid option of two ambulances 24/7 and a third ambulance 8-hours a day Monday through Friday for a price of $225,000.

The county agreed to the two-ambulance option.

Chickasaw County will also provide dispatching services for CareMed.

Chickasaw County 911 Director Barry Martin said the county would need to train additional dispatchers as certified Emergency Medical Dispatchers. He said it would take two to three days of training courses to get current dispatchers up to date.

The county’s contract with MedStat saw them charge a fee of $6,625 per month for two ambulances, staffed by a driver and paramedic as part of their old agreement. They stationed one ambulance in Houston and one in Okolona. MedStat has its own dispatching center in Winona.

Supervisors were given notice Sept. 4 that Med Stat wanted to renegotiate its contract with Chickasaw County.

MedStat’s David Eldridge said the local ambulance service lost $182,000 in Chickasaw County last year and proposed a new contract price of $329,000 to supervisors in an open meeting. He said at that time if an agreement could not be reached, MedStat contract with the county would end Oct. 31.

Board of Supervisors President Russell Brooks immediately said the county “would not go another $250,000.” Supervisors talked with Eldridge and then voted to seek bids that were opened at their Oct. 2 meeting in Okolona.

Eldridge said responding, stabilizing and then transporting a patient to Tupelo and coming back to Houston is a three hour trip.

It has been repeatedly reported to the county that many of those who call the ambulance service are not true emergency called, but MedStat is required to respond if dispatched. Many of those patients don’t have insurance and can’t afford to pay the ambulance bill.

Trace Regional Medical Center in Houston closed its emergency room due to similar circumstances in September 2014. The hospital wrote off $3 million in unpaid medical bills the previous year.

Supervisors pointed out Monroe County pays roughly $300,000 a year for ambulance service. In 2014 when the county solicited bids for ambulance service, TransCare submitted a bid for $24,000 a month for three ambulances.

The potential increase of $250,000 for ambulance service was not in the 2017-18 budget approved in September. That budget has $89,000 earmarked for ambulance services.

On a motion by Dist. 1 Supervisors Anderson McFarland and a second by Dist. 4 Supervisor Jerry Hall the county took CareMed’s bid under advisement, pending details to be worked out by lawyers for both parties.

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