Benton County Hopes to Solve Ambulance Problems

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The eight ambulance services that respond in less-populated parts of Benton County are struggling to make ends meet and they're asking the county for help.

“We’re having to be absolute good stewards with scarce public funds and we see this as a way in which we’re helping to augment what is basically a county function so we just need the county to help us out a  little more,” said Siloam Springs Fire Chief, Greg Neely.

Siloam Springs EMS service received approximately $22,000 in 2011, and approximately $23,000 in 2012 from Benton County to help pay for this service.

This year, that payment increased to $52,000 from the county, but Neely said it’s not nearly enough.

“If you were to identify all of these items that were strictly EMS related and calculate that time not nearly the 20 percent of the calls that we go out into the county, you could easily come up with $400,000,” said Neely.

Sixty-five percent of ambulance calls are transports, which they get paid for and the other 35 percent they don’t get paid for, according to Benton County Judge, Bob Clinard.

Siloam Springs responded to 391 calls outside city limits in 2012.

Clinard said $1.2 million will be needed to pay for service in those areas.

Each provider submitted costs and its total ambulance runs to the Benton County Quorum Court and each provider has a different dollar amount, said Clinard.

“Their formulas for coming up with this cost vary greatly,” said Clinard.

If an agreement is not reached between the quorum court and ambulances, areas of the county could go without service, added Clinard.

Clinard is determined to find a solution, but the issue might have to go to voters, asking them to pay a fee for services.

“It’s less than $100 a year, not sure what it’s going to be just yet, it depends on how much money we end up negotiating with the providers to spend with the services overall,” added Clinard.

He said the county could end up using money out of the general fund which means cuts in other areas.

“To the road department, to the sheriff department or wherever we have to cut the money,” said Clinard.

It’s imperative that they come up with a long term solution by the next budget session which is September and October, said Clinard.

Officials with the Bentonville Fire Department told 5NEWS they respond to about 15 calls per day, almost five times the amount of calls they responded to 15 years ago.

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