EMS Focus Group report a must read for entire community

When an emergency situation arises in Hamilton County residents here know they can depend on quality EMS care. On that point, there is no debate.
If you or someone you love is having a heart attack, in an accident or facing a life-and-death situation of any sort, you want to know that trained emergency medical technicians will be there in your time of need. It’s difficult to put a dollar figure on the value of emergency care, though there is growing awareness that the cost of that care is much higher here than other Nebraska communities of similar size.
So how much is too much and who should decide that question? That point IS very much subject to local debate. As an ag-based community, we must also consider that the brunt of the yearly $500,000-plus subsidy funding the Hamilton County Ambulance Department is being collected via property taxes, not necessarily through Medicare/Medicaid, insurance claims and private pay as many might assume.
Finding out how Hamilton County compares and if in fact there are ways to  reduce ambulance service costs was the sole focus of a year-long study made public this week. The 15 people who volunteered their time to research the issue deserve the community’s thanks.
Two stories in this week’s edition share insight into an issue that appears still in the very early stages of discussion. The Emergency Medical Services Focus Group presented a 42-page report, concluding that Memorial Hospital should take over ownership and responsibility of the local ambulance service, with support from community partners including the city, county and private foundations. We posted that report on the News-Register’s website and strongly encourage everyone to read it.
There is one glaring point of contention that could have been avoided, however, and that involved the level of communication, or lack thereof, between the focus group and the hospital’s board and administration. Adding EMS services under the MCHI umbrella would represent significant change. Having not been involved during the research process, hospital leaders will now want to do their own homework before seriously considering any type of community partnership. That’s understandable, though it will take time.
Nonetheless, the data gathered suggests that there are alternative solutions that could help trim costs while maintaining an excellent level of emergency care. That shared goal can hopefully bring people together on an issue of vital importance to Hamilton County.
Kurt Johnson

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