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Butler County EMS Completes Busy 2011; Director McKinney Explains Funding

Butler County Ambulance Service Director Brian McKinney

The Butler County Ambulance Service had its busiest year ever in 2011 making 2,228 calls from January 1 to December 31, 2011. A call, or run, is defined as members of Butler County Emergency Medical Services, or BCEMS, making contact with a patient. Over 1,600 of these calls resulted in a patient being transported and over 600 calls required no transport.

BCEMS Director Brian McKinney said, "The number of runs has steadily increased over the 18 and a half years that I have worked here. In 2009 BCEMS went on 1,869 runs, that increased in 2010 to 2,169 runs, and this previous year we made 2,228 runs."

Working to provide the people of Butler County with the best care possible is the primary goal of the Ambulance Service, according to McKinney. In order to do so, one crew is on duty at the ambulance bay 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Another crew works 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and there are always crews on call. When a crew is on call, they have to be in the county and available to respond to a call if needed. Also available around the clock are members of the Emergency Communication Center, ECC, although it is most commonly referred to as "Dispatch."

From a financial standpoint, BCEMS has a budget of $1,127,500. This budget covers medical supplies, ECC equipment, day-to-day operations, payroll, employee insurance, and employee retirement. This may sound like a lot of money, but once you begin purchasing medical supplies it disappears quickly.

McKinney says that "People don't seem to realize how much it takes for our trucks to be properly supplied. For example, the cot that we transport patients on costs around $12,000 and the heart monitor that we are currently using costs $10,000. Those are just two examples of equipment that we use; there is a lot equipment that has to be replaced after one use such as IV equipment, medicines, bandages, dressing, etc. We run five trucks; that means you have five cots, five heart monitors, five trucks full of fuel, and so on because all of our trucks have to be properly supplied and maintained."

McKinney continued, "Another essential, yet expensive, piece of equipment that must be maintained is the CAD System. The CAD System is a very state of the art piece of equipment that has revolutionized the way that our dispatchers work. Prior to purchasing this equipment, our dispatchers had to record every call by hand and hand write each report; the CAD System allows our dispatchers to record everything electronically the moment that it happens as well as provide accurate maps of the entire county. Emergency personnel from across the state now come to our ECC to watch our dispatchers use the CAD System."

Keeping up with state mandates is also a requirement. 

"We purchase new equipment and supplies on a regular basis as is mandated by the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services. Our license requires us to have properly supplied trucks including certain cots, specific medical equipment, and current medical supplies. All of our trucks are inspected on an annual basis and failure to have any of the required medical equipment can result in BCEMS losing its license," said BCEMS Office Manager Nancy Cardwell.

McKinney also spoke about the rising cost of new medical supplies. He said that the new heart monitors that will be required by the state cost somewhere in the ballpark of $30,000. So, to equip all five ambulances with these new monitors will cost $150,000. Add in the cost of fuel to keep five ambulances running all year and you can see where a lot of the money goes.

As for money received, the citizens of Butler County pay an Ambulance Tax that helps fund the EMS Services. Butler Countians pay $0.09 on every $100 in assessed property value and $0.010 on every $100 of assesed motor vehicle value. For the 2011 calendar year the Ambulance Tax raised $310,258.13 from property taxes and $71,595.46 from motor vehicle taxes for a total of $381,853.59. While this may look like a lot of money, compare that to the total budget of $1,127,500. That $381,000+ earned from the Ambulance Tax is only around 34% of the total money used to fund the Ambulance Services.

The BCEMS also collected $574,969.25 from Medicare, Medicaid, insurance companies, and private pay for services provided during the 2011 year. BCEMS has a collection rate that is above the state and national average for ambulance services per ambulance run. McKinney stated that the collection rate has steadily increased since 2007 when the Ambulance Board was formed. BCEMS has also secured one grant for $11,000 that they may only use to purchase medical equipment.

The tax rates for other local agencies are as follows:
Butler County School System: $0.377 on every $100 of assessed property value
Extension Agency: $0.0571 on every $100 of assessed property value
Health Department: $0.0225 on every $100 of assessed property value
BC Library: $0.068 on every $100 of assessed property value

All figures reported in this article are a matter of public record and, as such, they are available to the general public. Anyone who wishes to view the Butler County Ambulance Service budget or tax rates may do so during regular courthouse hours, 8 am to 4 pm Mondays thru Fridays.

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Story by Katie Kirby, Beech Tree News.

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