Council majority supports EMS standby fee request

Jill Meier, Journal editor
A $50,000 request got a warm reception by Brandon’s council majority Monday evening. The 5-1 vote directs city administration and legal counsel to draft an agreement for stand-by fees to be paid to MED-Star Ambulance, the city’s 911 emergency services provider the past seven years.
Alderman Chuck Parsons cast the lone nay vote.
MED-Star CEO/president Jay Masur explained his for-profit service is actually losing money by providing 911 services, totaling just shy of $730,000 for 2018.
“Historically, 911 ambulance services don’t make money,” he said. 
By the end of the year, Masur estimated MED-Star would respond to about 600 calls in Brandon, from which they transport about 400 of those calls and are reimbursed for 20 to 25 percent of those transports.
As of Oct. 31 of this year, MED-Star had been paid $180,775 of the $429,238 they’ve billed out. 
He said it costs about $100 per hour to staff a full-fledged ambulance service 24/7, 365 days per year.
“I’m a stupid businessman if you look at our numbers,” Masur said.
The city of Brandon isn’t the only entity MED-Star is asking to help supplement the cost of 911 services. Last week, AJ Spake, assistant director of MED-Star, addressed the Valley Springs City Commission. The city of Colman and various townships MED-Star provides 911 services to in Area 5, will also be approached, he said.
“Out of fairness, I went to the county and asked for the same $50,000,” Masur said, adding commissioners didn’t consider the request because MED-Star is a for-profit company. “These services aren’t free. … I would ask that my city of Brandon, whom I’ve been loyal to … to take the edge off; that’s it, just take the edge off.”
Masur said he will continue to seek a stand-by fee from the county. Collectively, MED-Star hopes to recoup $135,000 annually of its $700,000 shortfall. 
“My passion can’t pay all the bills anymore,” he said. “I invite you to look around the country and you’ll find the good share of them re volunteer services. They are vital services and this is a very small price for a community to pay.”
Alderman Tim Wakefield noted that MED-Star has “removed some burden” from Brandon’s volunteer fire department, which until recent years, responded to every call. 
“The other piece that I would hope people realize is that we’re not only getting an EMT, not just a driver, but we’re getting paramedics,” Wakefield said, recognizing MED-Star’s minimal response time. “It’s not prudent for a city to get in the ambulance business and I don’t think the fire department wants to get in the ambulance business, and overall, the coverage and response time is key here.” 


The Brandon Valley Journal


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Brandon, SD 57005
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