As the Vigo County Commissioners look for ways to save money on ambulance service, Terre Haute’s mayor says consolidation between the city and county may be an option, as long as some functions currently provided by each department are not disrupted.
Cities like Kokomo have made changes in recent months in an effort to save money on ambulance runs. Ambulance service in Indiana is a patchwork: In some places, hospitals own the ambulances. In others — like Vigo County — the city operates its own fire department vehicles and the county contracts runs outside of the city to a private company. Terre Haute mayor Duke Bennett said it’s possible city fire equipment – which already handles some out-of-town ambulance runs if there are no private vehicles available – could be permanently tasked with those calls. But he cautioned consolidation is not always an option.
“We’ve had some discussions; we’ll continue to discuss that. Some of them are more difficult than others. But we have to look at every single option on the table to give the taxpayer the biggest bang for the buck,” Bennett said.
Bennett notes four of every five runs currently handled by the city fire department primarily require the services of an emergency medical technician and not someone trained to put out a fire. The mayor says he realizes the need for that service to continue. Still, Vigo County Commissioners President Judith Anderson said she expects to have a conversation with Bennett about consolidation sometime soon.
“The mayor has been very diligent about involving the county in anything he thinks we could do together and we’ve done the same thing,” Anderson said. “So yes, I see that happening.”
Anderson points out the city and the county already operate a combined emergency dispatch center, adding now would be a good time to address possible consolidation, as the commissioners are in the process of renegotiating ambulance contracts.