Monday July 2nd at 6PM, there will be a City Council meeting to conduct business unrelated to the ambulance issue, but the agenda (found here) lists ambulance services as a discussion item.
So as a primer for the meeting, allow me to deliver what information I know about the current ambulance set up.
Currently, ambulance service is performed via contract with the Columbus Regional Hospital. The City and County came together a good while back and made the agreement to contract with CRH instead of hosting the ambulance service as a part of City and County operations. This contract currently costs City taxpayers about $700,000. Add in the County subsidy (don't forget city dwellers pay County taxes too!) and taxpayers County wide are paying almost $1 million.
This week, the Board of Public Works collected bids from CRH, Seals, TransCare, Rural Metro, and the Columbus Fire Department.
Here are the price tags associated with each service (City-County plan numbers).
- CRH: $640,000 for the first year/ $300,000 for the second
- Seals: $175,000 for the first year
- TransCare: $0.00
- Rural Metro: $0.00
- Columbus Fire Department: $274,000 for the first year/ $77,178 for the second
Notice some interesting things from these numbers. CRH currently does the same service for almost $1 million. So why are they now able to deliver the service for $640,000 and $300,000 for the second? Could it be that for the first time they have to compete with other ambulance services in a public bid?
Why can the other companies do these services for a fraction of the cost if not for free? Well some things have to do with start up costs (especially with the Fire Department) but other reason are that TransCare already has 4 ambulances here for nursing home transport services. They say they will station 4 more ambulances and use the current 4 as back up giving the whole county 8 ambulances to use.
Currently, the CRH has 4 ambulances. 3 for the City and 1 specifically for the County. These are Advance Life Support units. This same level of service is what is being bid on.
So there is no change in service (excepting where there is expansion as is the case with TransCare) with any of these bids. Why is CRH so expensive? They are the hospital. Surely ambulance service would be a mere extension of their operations.
Another point to make is the confusion that Rodney Ferrenburg, Fire Chief of Columbus Township and Vice-President of the Bartholomew County Fire Chief's Association, and Roger Johnson, the President of the BCFCA created in the Republic with their statements.
Ferrenburg and Johnson are urging the City to stick with CRH. The reason they give is because they have the notion that it is the City's plan to place the ambulances in the Fire Stations. They say that if that were to happen, then township and county citizens would suffer a huge time delay in waiting for ambulances.
There are a couple problems with their statements. First is that no one in the City is talking about doing that.
The second problem is that CRH already wants to do that to save money.
Yes, folks. The top two ranking members of the Fire Chief's Association wants to have CRH for the ambulance service, yet CRH wants to do the very thing the two Fire Chiefs are warning about. How does that make sense?
Now, let's understand why Rodney Ferrenburg might want to have CRH with the contract.
Currently, CRH rents space for one of their ambulances in the Columbus Township Fire station. Special interest? You bet!
Monday is another meeting at the City Council with discussion at the end about ambulance services. We will update this site more to report more information about the services, the inner political workings of what is going on, and why some politicians are fighting the open bid process (which is an example of unprecedented transperancy) by Mayor Kristen Brown and the Board of Public Works and Safety.