County Commissioners held the scheduled meeting at 7pm on Wednesday to gather the two boards of the Ambulance Authority and the Emergency Squad to begin talks that they hope will lead to a merging of the two entities. Harrison County EMS Executive Director Rick Rock was introduced and began by explaining why he wanted to help our county resolve this long standing problem. Mr. Rock has family in Doddridge County and through those connections knows of the troubled past with ambulatory services in the county. Mr. Rock was accompanied by Mr. Stephen McIntire, Assistant Chief of the Harrison County EMS. Mr. McIntire was on hand as his role in the Harrison EMS is to ensure compliances with all federal regulations regarding the Drug Enforcement Agency rulings, it was explained that he complements Mr. Rock who is a CPA and handles the majority of the financial aspects of EMS and patient care.
The main point that was driven through the meeting centered around understanding that this has nothing to do with past divisions or “sides” of the county regarding ambulatory care, but should one be driven by one factor and that is optimal patient care for the monies spent.
Currently you have the structure of the County Commission who had set a county-funded Ambulance Authority who would be accountable and answer to the County Commission through its board of directors. As well with the Emergency Squad, you have a Privately Held, Not for Profit Corporation that answers only to its selected board of directors. They also receive funding in the form of donations from the county commission to defray expenses as they do service county residents.
Several members of each board were on hand to listen to the ideas presented and ask a few questions of Mr. Rock and Mr. McIntire. The two took the time to explain their thoughts and vision based on several models across the State. In an interview after the meeting, Mr. Rock explained a three tiered approach as one possible solution they are recommending to the commission.
Mr. Rock explained that this model has worked in the past for several small communities and might be the answer to our dilemma. This is a complete reformulation of what we know today. The top of the pyramid would be the County Commission, under them would be established a new over-sight board or committee that would oversee the group that would be providing the services. The lower tier would be a mix of the existing groups and their assets provided all parties are agreeable and all financial disclosures are approved for a merge.
Mr. Rock explained “the middle tier would be a direct conduit for the county commission to oversee all financial aspects of the services being provided. If your spending county money, where does it go? Are your response times acceptable for your area? These are the kinds of things that need to be monitored.” “They would set policy for the county. Seeing how the resources of the county are being used. To hold them accountable so that you can’t have the same situation that occurred in the past.” “You have to make certain that none of the parties have anything hanging out there like law suits, overdue or unpaid bills... Basically make sure everyones house is in good financial order.”
“I feel from an operational standpoint that when there is that external accountability that everyone adheres to, you find less problems arise.”
“Doddridge County is it’s own unique county, what works for Harrison may not work for Doddridge” Mr. Rock said. “The great thing about this situation is you get to think outside the box. You’ll have more people looking to solve the problem of better patient care and more suggestions will come to the table.”
We asked him if a small UHC Medical Care Center would help as part of the solution. He indicated that UHC was concerned when they moved the hospital further from Doddridge, Ritchie, Tyler and Gilmer counties and that should be brought to discussion with them. “That is an idea that should be pursued. Put every option on the table.”
So now it is up to the two boards to meet themselves and approach the county commission with their ideas and their understanding of what they can provide. Mr. Rock noted that a SWOT analysis be used to start the process. SWOT analysis is a structured planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture. The SWOT should bring everything to light and show where one group may compliment the others weaknesses, or where one group may have different ideas on how to function better at a cost savings.
We watch for the next meeting announcement for the merge.