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