By Eugenia Jones
In addition to providing life-saving emergency care, McCreary EMS generates revenue for County. Part 1 of 2
McCreary County’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Director Jimmy Barnett officially declared fiscal year 2020/21 as the highest grossing year of revenue in the service’s history. With Barnett now entering his eleventh year at the helm of the ambulance service, he has guided EMS through consistent growth culminating in last fiscal year’s whopping total revenue of $1,705,297.17. With a total operating budget for the year totaling $1,292,917.00, the service generated an additional $412,380.19 that was used to fund other County services.
With the success of McCreary County’s EMS, county government has become increasingly dependent on surplus revenue from the ambulance service to fund other aspects of its budget. This year’s (Fiscal Year 2021/22) budget-which includes across the board pay increases for all county employees-was built, in part, around Barnett’s projection that the ambulance service will continue to see future increases in the number of dedicated non-emergency runs performed by the ambulance service. Increases in non-emergency runs result in increases in the amount of revenue generated by the service.
Barnett introduced and implemented non-emergency transfer runs about three years ago. Implementation of non-emergency transfer runs has been highly successful in McCreary County. In addition to providing a valuable service to residents, the non-emergency runs generate a significant amount of revenue.
In the 2016-17 fiscal year, when transfers first began, EMS revenue increased by about $22,000. In 2017-18, the first full year of transfers, revenue increased by about $70,000. In 2018-19, EMS revenue increased by more than $91,000 as a result of 4,478 total runs. Of that total, 585 of the runs were dedicated non-emergency transfers. In 20/21, EMS completed 4,230 total runs with 2727 of those being emergency runs and 1503 non-emergency.
In Fiscal Year 2020/21, the McCreary County Ambulance Service generated $1,398,355.09 from 911 calls or emergency runs and $306,942.10 from non-emergency transports.
Barnett is confident the implementation of non-emergency transfer runs will continue to be successful in McCreary County. He has already secured a contract with Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital and is working on a contract with Corbin Regional Hospital allowing McCreary County EMS to provide transfer runs when the hospitals’ local EMS services are overrun with emergency 911 calls and/or transfer calls from hospitals needing to transfer patients to larger hospitals (level 1 trauma centers, etc.) in Lexington and other places.
In addition to providing service to hospitals, the McCreary County Ambulance Service provides non-emergency transfers to and from doctor appointments for local nursing home residents and homebound (bed-ridden) patients who meet certain insurance guidelines.
Barnett notes that most revenue from non-emergency transports is generated from out-of-county sources such as hospitals and government/private insurances.
“Our priority will always be to meet all of our 911 and emergency call runs,” Barnett emphasized. “First priority goes to giving the best possible advanced life support (ALS) care to local residents. Someone needing an ambulance in an emergency and not being able to get one is the worst fear of any EMS director. However, with that being said, McCreary County EMS has continued to add ambulances to our fleet so we can always be prepared. I started out with four ambulances and increased the fleet to five, and then to six. Now, with the coming addition of two van ambulances, we are going to have eight ALS ambulances. Although, the new van ambulances are being added primarily for non-emergency transfers, they will be fully equipped with advanced life support (ALS.) We will now have eight fully equipped ALS ambulances. If we are ever in a situation needing to run eight emergency ambulances, we will have the fleet to do it. If we need to run eight emergency ambulances, non-emergency transfers are off the table.”
Barnett explains area hospitals contracting with McCreary County for back-up help on transfers normally do not need assistance on a daily basis.
“It tends to go in waves,” Barnett explained. “It’s a win-win for everyone. Contracting with hospitals lets us pick up additional revenue, and it helps the hospital. Since hospitals don’t have a daily need for back-up transport, contracting with us prevents them from spending more revenue extra employees and equipment. Of course, the patients always benefit from having the service.”
Having raked in more than $2 million in grants during the last decade, McCreary County EMS has been highly successful in securing revenue through federal, state, and local grants. Revenue from these grants has been instrumental in funding many of the improvements that have taken place at the McCreary County Ambulance Service during the last ten years.
Next week, in part two of our report on McCreary County EMS, The Voice will share details about advancements made within the McCreary County Ambulance Service-including the use of high performance equipment, technology and advanced protocols by highly skilled employees. We will also look at the future goals and plans of one of McCreary County’s most successful departments.