Chesterton Tribune



Commissioners extend ambulance contract with Porter Health Systems

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The Porter County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to extend its current ambulance service contract with Porter Health Systems for another five years, which will reportedly net the County a savings of $1.5 million.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said the current contract was not due to expire for another year, but Porter Health officials made the offer to hold the contract at $750,000 a year instead of increasing it to $1 million in the last year of the contract, as originally planned.

Evans said that Porter Health made the offer, aware of the County’s “financial straits,” and agreed to freeze the subsidy which the County pays each year with money out of the Porter Memorial Hospital sale principal.

The contract provides EMS service to much of the unincorporated parts of the county. Portage, Valparaiso and more recently Chesterton have their own ambulance service contracts.

In 2011, the Commissioners signed on with Porter Health, setting the contract at $650,000 for the first two years, the next two years at $750,000, and the fifth year at $1 million.

Prior to 2011, the County had been paying a $500,000 subsidy to Porter Memorial Hospital, starting in 2003, after the bankruptcy of Bethlehem Steel.

Porter Memorial Hospital had been the County’s ambulance service provider since 1987.

Approving the new agreement Tuesday were Evans, along with Commissioners Nancy Adams, R-Center, and Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South.

“I think it’s a really good contract,” Evans said. He touted the savings of $1.5 million, assuming the contract would have been $1 million annually after next year.

Biggs’ weighs in

County Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, who was not at the Commissioner’s meeting Tuesday, said to the Chesterton Tribune afterwards that he wishes the Commissioners had put the service up for bid “given the financial situation of the County” and had consulted the Council, as they must do for unanimous consent to pay out of the hospital sale principal.

Bidding the project out could lead to a service contract similar to what the Town of Chesterton has with its ambulance provider, Biggs said. According to that agreement, any gross receipts in excess of the contracted amount, the town can recoup a portion of.

“There are at least reasons why this needs to be bid out, or we at least need to do our homework to make sure (Porter Health) is the best deal for us,” Biggs said.

Evans said his response to Biggs is that the Commissioners have never bid out ambulance service and he believes firmly that Porter Health is the best provider for the county. He also added that when the hospital was sold to Community Health Systems in 2007, it was in the sales agreement that Porter would continue to be the county’s ambulance service provider.

The decision on the contract is solely up to the Commissioners, not the Council, Evans said.

Meanwhile, Blaney told the Tribune she voted in favor of the contract extension because “the savings are enormous and the service is proven.”

Both Evans and Blaney said they had conferred with Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, before the meeting and he “seemed to agree” on the measure after hearing the savings potential.

Whitten could not be reached before deadline for additional comment.


Posted 11/19/2014




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