Preliminary ambulance budget aired
Boothbay Town Manager Jim Chaousis released preliminary budget figures for the Boothbay Region Ambulance Service post-hospital closure and estimated the potential effects to taxpayers in an email on October 19.
The draft budget is consistent with Operations Manager Scott Lash’s earlier estimates of how much the ER closing would affect the ambulance service’s bottom line. Lash projects the annual budget will increase by about $300,000, which equates to $100,000 in increased costs and a projected $200,000 in lost revenues. He estimates a $50,000 budget shortfall for the remainder of this fiscal year due to the ER closure in April (their fiscal year ends June 30.)
The ambulance service is funded primarily by insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid. Fundraising and a subsidy provided by the towns of Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor and Southport make up the remainder of its budget. In the draft budget, Lash projects that the three town annual subsidy will increase from $80,464 to $414,319.
This estimate does not account for any financial support from Lincoln County Healthcare. The healthcare organization has pledged to provide financial and training support to help the ambulance service adapt to its larger role once the ER closes. The extent of that support has not yet been defined.
In a phone call on Friday, Lash said that because of provisions in the Safe Harbor Rule, it may not be as easy to accept funding from Lincoln County Healthcare as he originally thought. “They’re our on-line medical control and now we would be taking money from them. It’s a big issue,” Lash said.
While responding to an emergency, ambulance crews are working under the direction of a physician; this is called on-line medical control. This physician determines appropriate care and in some instances may determine the destination hospital. Since Lincoln County Healthcare’s emergency physicians will provide medical control for the local ambulance service, Lash said he wants to ensure that there is no conflict or appearance of a kickback. He said the ambulance is consulting with an attorney.
The Boothbay Board of Selectmen will consider these early budget estimates at their regularly scheduled meeting on October 22. The Lincoln County Healthcare Board of Trustees is expected to review the ambulance service’s estimates, as well as a plan to provide financial and logistical support to the ambulance service at their monthly meeting on October 25.
Sue Mello can be reached at 844-4629 or firstname.lastname@example.org