West Tennessee Healthcare requests funding for local EMS services

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By Holly Roeder
Staff Writer

The Chester County Commission met in regular session Monday evening with all members in attendance.
In addition to hearing committee and mayor reports, the commission voted to recognize a new county road, heard a substantial request from West Tennessee Healthcare EMS and approved floor plans for the county library addition.
The budget committee recommended the bid threshold be increased to $15,000 from $10,000. The state has allowed for the opportunity to raise the threshold to $25,000. Irwin explained all other procedures remain in place, but raising the threshold allows for a reduction in paperwork and time. The motion passed raising it to $15,000 with a 14/4 vote, Al McKinnon, Andrea Holland, Johnny Garner and Carolyn Higgins voting no.
Also recommended by the budget committee, the board approved unanimously to replace debit cards with credit cards with a $10,000 limit.
In consideration of Homestead Lane, the board voted to take the road over, in as-is condition, upon recommendation of the highway committee. The vote was 16/2 with Kevin Faulkner and Mike Alexander voting no.
Mayor Barry Hutcherson shared with the board the roof had been replaced on the Public Safety Building following the March 3 storm damage. Repairs had also been done to Chester County Fire Department Station One.
Mayor Hutcherson also updated the board on upcoming grant opportunities, grant-funded building additions proposed by TCAT, WTH EMS request and certification progress for the county inspector, Dionne Davis. Davis had originally been given a time requirement of one year to have certification completed, because of testing delays due to the coronavirus. He has passed the previously required certification, however, Hutcherson stated the requirement recently changed to three certifications for residential inspections, so Davis must complete all three to be qualified for residential inspections. Until that time, the county must use the state inspector.
Regarding the EMS service in Chester County, a letter sent this week states “Since July 1, 1995, Medical Center EMS has provided emergency Medical Services to the citizens of Chester County. During this time, we have staffed at the contractual level and provided quality coverage on a day-to-day basis. In many cases, we have pulled additional resources into Chester County to supplement our staffing so that the citizens of the county would have access to emergent medical care when needed…We are now facing significant challenges in providing these services…Accordingly, we are no longer able to provide EMS services to Chester County under the current terms of the Agreement, and are providing this letter as notice of termination of the Agreement effective July 1, 2023…We look forward to talking to you in the near future…hope that an agreement can be reached…”
Tim Adams, Vice President of Hospital Services and Joyce Noles, Executive Director Medical Center EMS, were on hand to address the board and answer questions. Despite a 25-year contract agreed upon in 2018 when Chester County built the EMS building on South Church Ave., Adams, citing “cause” said WTH will need assistance providing their EMS services. He continued to explain that because of changes in Medicare program funding and a reduction in compensation and usage, an increase in staff retention costs and the COVID-19 pandemic, WTH EMS is requesting $419,000 yearly beginning July 1, with an increase of 2% or inflation equivalent each year. Chester County currently pays nothing for this service, due to the contractual agreement in building the facility for EMS in Chester County.
“How can we trust a contract?” asked Chair Pro Tempore Tim Crowe.
Commissioner Andrea Holland asked the WTH representatives about the status of WTH purchasing Chester County’s ambulances – which was a portion of the contractual agreement. Noles stated the exchange has not yet been completed due to paperwork issues. Noles said the paperwork had been misplaced at some point during the transaction process. She said they are awaiting an appraisal in order to continue the process.
Chairman Smith stated the budget committee will meet soon and will add the ambulance service to the list of topics to discuss and suggested WTH be invited to attend the meeting to discuss further.
The county approved the Chester County Library’s preliminary floor plans, which allows the library to move forward with application for a $100,000 construction grant.
In other news, the board unanimously approved two resolutions. A resolution to declare the Chester County Jail a workhouse and naming the Chester County Sheriff as Superintendent of the Workhouse was passed in the budget committee in July 2021, but had not been voted in by the commission, according to Chairman Barry Smith. Monday night’s vote was retroactive to July 2021. The second resolution provides authority to Mayor Hutcherson to apply for a HUD Community Block Grant program Addressing Food Insecurity Grant in the amount of $140,305.42 to provide funding for projects of First Baptist Church Food Bank.

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