Archive for Monday, January 29, 1996


January 29, 1996


Lawrence Memorial Hospital would get control of the Douglas County Ambulance Service in a consultant's cost-saving proposal.

A report outlining possible links with Lawrence Memorial Hospital may reopen discussion about the future of the Douglas County Ambulance Service.

Consultants say that LMH could help the ambulance service improve collections and cut personnel costs either by making DCAS a nonprofit corporation or by giving it to the hospital to run as one of its own departments.

In both cases, the county would have to relinquish control of the ambulance service to LMH. That idea leaves County Commissioner Jim Chappell cold.

``The only things I'm interested in are if they can help us buy our supplies cheaper or if they can help us improve our Medicare reimbursement rate,'' Chappell said.

``I'm not interested in giving up any control of the ambulance service,'' he said. ``The ambulance service belongs to the citizens of Douglas County, and that's where it's going to stay.''

Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the report, which was prepared by Fitch & Associates Inc., a Platte City, Mo., consulting firm, during their meeting at 6:35 p.m. Feb. 7. The meeting will be in the Douglas County Courthouse, 11th and Massachusetts.

Robert Trepinski, LMH's vice president and chief executive officer, could not be reached for comment.

The issue of DCAS' future was opened last year when Chappell raised the question of privatizing the ambulance service. He and other county officials have expressed concern that taxpayers are subsidizing more than half of the ambulance service's $1.7 million budget.

Although Chappell later abandoned the privatization idea, speculation had begun that Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., which entered the Lawrence market to take over or compete with LMH, would make a bid for the ambulance service.

During that period, LMH commissioned the Fitch report on the feasibility of an alliance with the ambulance service.

The consultants claim that either by turning DCAS into a nonprofit corporation or by giving it to the hospital, LMH and the ambulance service would share more than $1 million in improved revenues and decreased costs.

Ted McFarlane, DCAS director, said those estimates are based on current Medicare reimbursement policies, which have been a bone of contention in the federal budget battle.

``All of this gain may be washed away with the next congressional action,'' he said.

In addition, the consultants outlined the possibility of maintaining a county-run ambulance service but establishing an ambulance taxing district that would have its own tax-levied revenue stream. Under that scenario, the ambulance service wouldn't have to compete with other county functions for funding.

State law allows ambulance districts to levy up to three mills, which would generate a maximum of $1.4 million a year in Douglas County. A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value.

General fund levies could be reduced a proportional amount to make the shift tax revenue neutral.

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