State rule change drops NECAS standing

By Gary Henry ghenry@prairiepress.net
Posted 2/3/20

CHRISMAN – The Northern Edgar County Ambulance (NECAS) service is facing a new challenge.

Illinois has changed how emergency medical response services are rated in order to comply with new …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail or username
Password
Log in

State rule change drops NECAS standing

Posted

CHRISMAN – The Northern Edgar County Ambulance (NECAS) service is facing a new challenge.

Illinois has changed how emergency medical response services are rated in order to comply with new federal guidelines. The ratings determine what services each agency is allowed to perform and what drugs can be administered when caring for patients during transport to a hospital.

As a result of the change, Illinois has eliminated the EMT-I (Emergency Medical Technician-Intermediate) status where NECAS was operating and moved the ambulance service to AEMT (Advanced Emergency Medical Technician) level.

“It wasn’t anything Northern Edgar County did,” NECAS coordinator Jeremy Neal said during the ambulance board meeting Tuesday, Jan. 28. “These new protocols are at the national level. This is not supposed to be a downgrade but it sure feels like it.”

NECAS ambulance personnel have lost the ability to perform approximately seven procedures and administer about 10 medications that they were able to do in December.

Of particular concern to Neal, is the loss of the ability to use heart monitors and do manual defibrillation given the number of elderly patients NECAS serves in the community at large and at Pleasant Meadows Senior Living. Using automatic defibrillators is acceptable.

“We know how, but we are not allowed to read heart monitors. We know how but we not allowed to do manual defibrillation,” said

Neal. 

It is not clear what the end result will be. Neal said it is still a fluid situation where the new rules are not exactly aligning with the old rules, and he does not anticipate any resolution before April.

He added it is possible come April NECAS will be allowed to run as a paramedic service when he is on the ambulance, because he has a paramedic license.

The change in status was reflected in the budget Neal presented. He said the new budget closely matches the previous budget except he increased the line item for interceptions with ambulance companies holding a higher ranking like Horizon Health.

“We are going to depend on our friends down south for things we used to do,” he said.

The budget anticipates $397,000 of income through billing insurance companies and individuals for $375,000, plus the $22,000 in subsidies provided by contributions from the villages of Hume and Metcalf, the City of Chrisman and the townships of Young America, Ross, Prairie, Brouilletts Creek, Edgar and Shiloh.

The expense side of $428,000 includes $200,000 in anticipated write offs for uncollectable bills. NECAS wrote off $172,000 worth of services for 2019.

An expense not specifically included in the new budget but something board members must be aware of prior to February 2021 is the current heart monitors in the ambulances will no longer be acceptable for use at that time. Neal said new monitors will cost $32,000 each and will require a long lead-time for delivery.

In an action item, the board approved changing out the heating, air conditioning and ventilation system in the ambulance bay. All of the heat put out by the current furnace gets trapped in an upstairs sleeping space making the overhead area unbearably hot while the office area, ready room and ambulance garage are sometimes uncomfortably cool.

Board president Kevin Julian presented a proposal to install a min-split unit that can heat and cool the office, ready room and sleeping space at a consistent temperature. The furnace currently in use will remain but a change in the ductwork will allow it to heat the ambulance garage.

Board members were initially reluctant to approve the work, which is estimated to cost more than $8,000, but finally agreed it is needed and NECAS did receive an EnerStar grant of $5,000 to make the change.