By Alyssa Schnugg
Lafayette County and the city of Oxford are in the process of negotiating a new contract with Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi on how it will continue to provide and improve its ambulance service.
A preliminary version of the contract has been approved by the Oxford Board of Aldermen and Lafayette County Board of Supervisors; however, City Attorney Pope Mallette pointed out to the Aldermen last week that the contract was still under negotiations, and changes are likely.
Watch the Board of Aldermen’s Feb. 16th meeting here.
Mallette said the city and county have been working on definitive language to require BMH to perform the required ambulance services that came with the sale of the hospital in 2012.
In the proposed contract, Baptist would be required to maintain a response time of 10 minutes or less for 90% of responses inside city limits, measured on a monthly basis. Outside the city, the response time should be 18 minutes or less for 90% of calls. In the northern area of Lafayette County, such as Harmontown, response time should be 35 minutes or less, 90% of the time.
The contract also contains monetary fines for noncompliance, beginning with $2,000 for the first violation, and up to $6,000 for the third or subsequent violation within a one-year period.
The contract also states that all parties agree to form an Ambulance Service Committee, made up of two members from Baptist, two members from Lafayette County, two members from the city of Oxford, one member from Baptist’s ambulance service provider, and the Lafayette County Communications Director.
Read the entire proposed contract here.
On Monday, the Board of Supervisors issued a joint statement in regard to the proposed contract after concerns from a third-party ambulance provider became public via social media.
“Our chief interest is ensuring that the people of Lafayette County can count on swift response times from ambulances and quality care from well-trained emergency medical technicians and paramedics,” stated the Board of Supervisors.
CareMed Ambulance Service submitted a letter expressing concerns that they were left out of the process of creating the contract. Most of the concern was in regard to a paragraph in the contract that reads: “At such time that Baptist, or its designated service provider, is the only ambulance service listed on the routine E911 call schedule, Baptist will provide at least four (4) fully staffed 24/7 ambulance units to be stationed at agreed locations within Lafayette County.”
Mallette acknowledged that the paragraph was ambiguous and said the attorneys for the city, county and Baptist would continue to flush out the language.
CareMed approached the city and county four years ago and asked to be on the rotation for medical calls that came into 911, which was granted; however, Mallette said the city did not have a contractual agreement with any third-party provider.
“CareMed is welcome to seek to be the provider for Baptist,” Mallette said last week. “We will have an agreement with Baptist. We have been very careful not to seek an agreement with any third party providers because we don’t want to let Baptist off the hook from their obligations under the buy-sell agreement.”
Mayor Robyn Tannehill said she didn’t think the intent of the contract was to remove the option of having another company on the rotation.
“But our intent was that Baptist would get the first call,” she said.
The Board of Supervisors said they will also continue to discuss CareMed’s role as a provider as the board moves forward with the contract negotiations.
“We understand how important swift and well-trained emergency medical care is to everyone in Lafayette County, and we are committed to seeing this process through,” stated the Board of Supervisors.