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Pike County exploring EMS outsourcing option

By RICK GREENE

Southern Ohio Today


WAVERLY – Representatives from Portsmouth Ambulance attended the Pike County Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday as the county explores options for county emergency services.


Commissioners explained the private company’s presence was exploratory in nature.


“We struggle with (emergency services). We want to look at a private service,” Commissioner Tony Montgomery said. “We’re not sure if that’s an option to go with. Maybe, maybe not.”


Portsmouth Ambulance is based in Portsmouth, but services much of Southeast Ohio and parts of Eastern Kentucky.


Portsmouth Ambulance Chief Operating Officer Michael Adkins joined Director of Operations Tim Colley and Brian Estep, a member of the company’s administrative team at the meeting. Adkins said the company could offer the county supplemental emergency managements services, consulting, assistance with billing and other services.


“We’d be interested in taking a look at what you have. There are different models that might work for you,” Adkins said. “We can look at your billing and other aspects of your emergency services that might save you some money.”


Pike County EMS has had budget difficulties in 2020 and has had multiple directors following Tim Dickerson’s move to director of the Pike County Emergency Management Agency.


Commissioner Jerry Miller said the organization has been unstable.


“We want to keep all options open,” Miller said. “We’ve had multiple directors. I’m not throwing anyone under the bus, but we’ve had a leadership void.”


Lisa Cutler, the manager at the Pike County Airport, assumed the EMS director position just three weeks ago and provided an analysis of the organization earlier in Monday’s meeting.


“There doesn’t appear to be a lot of structure and a lot of accountability,” Cutler said. “People are showing up late and leaving early. They are wrecking vehicles and not reporting it. This situation will not fix itself.”


Cutler explained the organization cannot recover from budget overruns that occurred earlier in 2020.


“So far this year, we’re so far in the red we’re can’t get out of it,” she said.


Cutler did explain that there are good emergency personnel within the organization, but that more structure will be required.


Cutler informed the commissioners that two members of the Pike County EMS team will be recognized for their work with a recent stroke victim.


Cheryl Dryden and Michael Mills will be recognized at an event at Adena Regional Medical Center on Oct. 13 for their quick decision-making to get immediate emergency care for a patient who was having an acute stroke.


“We have a good group of people who need some acknowledgement every now and then and need to know they are appreciated,” Cutler said. “I am there to do that, but I’m also trying to be their leader.”


During the meeting, Estep explained that many places struggle with emergency services where the need surpasses the available resources.


“The truth is there are not enough EMS services to cover the needs of citizens,” Estep said. “These (organizations) are typically understaffed. It’s a statewide problem and it’s a national problem.”


Commissioner Blaine Beekman asked the Portsmouth Ambulance representatives about their billing services, but commissioners did say the Pike County EMS billing system has improved.


Miller said the commissioners want to be open to providing the services internally, outsourcing them or perhaps a combination.


“We are looking to see if there are options. We need to find out if there is a better way to serve the people of Pike County,” Miller said.

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