We Need Seven Ready
JOHN M. WYLIE III, The Oologah Lake Leader
Directors of Rural Water District No. 4 may vote as early as 2 p.m. Friday, during a rescheduled regular meting, on the Seven Ready Plan from OTEMS ambulance district.
The plan, already being implemented for OTEMS district residents served by Verdigris Valley Electric Cooperative, would allow residents of the ambulance district who are not members of VVEC to be billed for the $7 monthly fee on their water bill.
As in the VVEC program, any RWD4 tap holder who wants to opt out of the program could do so.
Those who decide to participate will be guaranteed to have no out-of pocket expenses for ambulance calls in the district. The $7 monthly fee will provide the district with financial stability.
We hope most of our readers will choose to remain in the program through VVEC, and that the water board will approve the program Friday. There is no downside.
Those who for whatever reasons don’t want to participate can simply opt out.
Those who do participate will be giving themselves and their families the peace of mind of knowing that there will be a paramedic ambulance available quickly if they need it, and that they won't face a financial shock from insurance co-pay if they use it.
The alternative, discussed at a public forum Tuesday night, is bleak. Because of antiquated ambulance financing laws, OTEMS' property tax millage is capped at 3 mills under an article of the state constitution approved by voters in 1976 and never changed since.
Costs of ambulance service have soared since then while insurance, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements have declined. The state has lost at least 50 ambulance services in the past decade and OTEMS is now on the list of nine at-risk services.
It is using a $150,000 line of credit in between property tax payments and the bank has expressed reservations about renewing the one that expires in July 2012.
It has no way to replace aging ambulance that should be retired this year.
It can't give employees raises.
The problem is not of OTEMS' making.
It isn't because it provides poor patient care. Patient care is excellent.
It isn't because it does non-emergency patient transfers. Those generate cash flow.
It isn't because of bad employees. OTEMS has lost just two full time employees in recent years, one to medical school and one to the Tulsa Fire Department. (That one has come back on a part-time basis).
It is simply because you can't run a quality ambulance service on a beans and rice budget.
If the plan isn't implemented, OTEMS faces the very real risk of being shrunk to a shell of itself or even shut down.
Despite coverage by two newspapers, two television stations and a half dozen web sites, only 15 average citizens attended Tuesday night's meeting. (Another 15 were public officials of one kind or another.)
Most either opposed the plan or had questions, but 15 out of around 2,800 affected is a very small group.
Jack Bogart, the VVEC trustee serving most of the OTEMS district, said he'd received just three phone calls about the plan. He said the other two trustees with OTEMS residents in their district, had received zero.
After two months of study, we hope the water board is ready to act Friday. It would be a great Christmas gift for our community.
Mon, February 20, 2012