Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

April 24, 2014

OUR VIEW: EMS issue demands quicker response


Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — While it is disappointing that the debate over funding for Barren County’s ambulance service will stretch into a fourth month, it’s hardly surprising, considering the glacial paces at which governments often move. And it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, if progress was being made or a solution was being developed.

What’s frustrating in this instance is that those things don’t appear to be happening. When the Barren-Metcalfe Ambulance Board met Wednesday to resume a discussion that began in February about funding an additional part-time crew to help make emergency runs during periods of high demand, it essentially talked in circles for two hours before tabling the issue until sometime in May.

The board wants to hear in a special-called meeting next month from the company contracted to handle the ambulance service’s billing – a move that mirrors the efficiency-focused approach seemingly favored by the newly formed ambulance service finance committee of Barren County Fiscal Court, which met earlier this month with members of Glasgow City Council’s finance committee. It’s a curious step, considering no one seems to believe anything inappropriate is afoot inside the ambulance service. Could a few bucks be saved here or there? Probably. Enough to cover the estimated $93,000 needed for the part-time crew? We’d be surprised.

Frankly, there are a lot of cooks in this kitchen. Two groups, meeting separately, are discussing a question that, to us, is strikingly simple. Ambulance board member Bill Bucher summed it up Wednesday night: “Does not adding this part-time crew cause us to not provide adequate emergency ambulance service?”

“Yes, it does,” answered Barren-Metcalfe Emergency Medical Service Director Mike Swift, who knows more about ambulance service than anyone in the history of the county and is among the preeminent emergency-response officials in the state. There’s no indication or suggestion Swift seeks this staffing boost for any reason other than better protection of our community. Barren County shouldn’t settle for missed emergency calls or interminable delays for nonemergency – but still medically vital – transfers, but that’s what we’re doing under current staffing levels. And that’s what Swift is trying to correct.

Swift – who warned local officials, to no avail, in 2011 that this critical demand was looming – supports a taxing district in Barren County to establish a steady revenue stream for the ambulance service. Numerous surrounding counties have adopted this approach, and this newspaper endorses the idea. The Daily Times traditionally supports taxation for specific, clearly defined goals, not for vague or open-ended pursuits, and we believe this issue falls squarely into the former category. If there’s a better, fairer way to provide our ambulance service with adequate resources to do its job, we’re all ears. But we haven’t heard it yet.

We hope the so-far sluggish response to Swift’s proposal isn’t a manifestation of election-year politics or an irrational fear of raising taxes. Some services are simply worth paying for – especially ones for which counting seconds, not pennies, is a life-or-death measurement.