WCCAD votes 'no' on equipment purchase

Friday, January 21, 2011

EUREKA SPRINGS -- After a lengthy discussion Tuesday among board members, emergency medical providers and the public, the Western Carroll County Ambulance District (WCCAD) board voted not to purchase another LUCAS Chest Compression machine.

The purchase of the $14,000 device had been requested by the Emergency Medical Responders (EMRs) Alliance, with the proviso that it be housed on a City of Eureka Springs ambulance. The city provides ambulance service to the Western District by contract.

At issue was not whether the LUCAS is a valuable and useful piece of equipment, but rather, who should pay for it.

The contract specifies the city will receive 85 percent of the two-mill real and personal property tax levied on Western District property owners, but that WCCAD will not fund equipment for the contract provider to use.

Also, the City of Eureka Springs is not part of the Western District, so WCCAD funds or equipment cannot be used to serve city calls. Ensuring that would not happen could not be guaranteed.

Commissioner Chuck Olson, who is also an EMR in the Grassy Knob area, opened the discussion by saying WCCAD's own revenue was down last year because of the first LUCAS purchase.

That machine is housed in Holiday Island, which, because of its senior population, has the greatest number of medical calls and the greatest number of heart attack calls.

WCCAD uses the remaining 15 percent of the tax revenues to train and equip volunteer EMRs in the five rural fire districts it serves.

With those monies, WCCAD has spent tens of thousands of dollars to furnish radios and Automatic Emergency Defibrillators (AEDs) to every volunteer EMR.

"Last year we went $4,000 in the hole," he said.

"I'm concerned about the predicted lifespan of AEDs and radios, and when we have to come up with the money for that," said Chairman John Dolce.

Alliance Chairman Lynn Palmer said next year the current AEDs, the Lifepack 500s, will no longer be repaired or available. Batteries, at $200 each, only last for about three years. Radios cost $350 each.

With 18 people soon graduating from the current emergency training class, WCCAD will furnish medical bags, jackets and radios to those who become volunteers in the Western District.

Olson said he had sought an attorney's opinion on the LUCAS purchase, but the attorney had not gotten back to him.

Olson acknowledged the LUCAS is a "nice to have" device, but EMRs can do CPR without it. He said he had been on two calls during which three EMRs provided CPR for an extended time period, taking turns, and were not overly taxed doing so.

Some of the discussion concerned the ability of WCCAD to partner with Eureka Springs to purchase such equipment.

Former Justice of the Peace Frank Renner read from the ordinance establishing the ambulance district and said he had researched the law.

"If you contract out that (ambulance) service, you can't buy equipment for the contractor. You can buy equipment if you have your own ambulance service. One or the other."

In 2011, Eureka Springs will receive $218,000 in contract payments from 2010 tax revenues of $257,000, a 2.82 percent increase over 2010.

"This is a contract we signed with Eureka Springs, and it says they shall not look to WCCAD for any costs of providing services," Olson said. "That's why you get 85 percent, so you can purchase your own equipment."

He later added, "Eureka Springs is doing a great job, but we are the guardians of tax dollars, and we need to spend them frugally and legally."

For the purposes of a vote, Dolce made a motion to purchase the LUCAS and Olson seconded, but then both voted nay, and Commissioner Steve Hudson abstained.

In other business, WCCAD:

* Received performance reports from Eureka Springs and the rural districts. In December there were a total of 42 Western District calls. Holiday Island had 26; Hwy. 23 South, 5; Hwy. 62 East, 5; Grassy Knob, 3; Inspiration Point, 2; Hwy. 62 West, 1; and Hwy. 23 North, none. There were, among both the city and district, 75 first ambulance out calls, 10 second-out calls, one third-out call and no fourth-out calls. There were also six calls that took longer than 15 minutes to reach, due to distance.

The next meeting will be Tuesday, March 15, at 4 p.m. at the Cornerstone Bank Financial Center in Eureka.

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