Van Zandt Commissioners Court: EMS Services Open for Bid
A CORRECTION HAS BEEN MADE
Wednesday, January 23, 2019, the Commissioners Court agenda was as full as the courtroom itself. Hottest on the agenda being the county’s EMS services contract, as it’s up for renewal.
Proceedings were opened by the Honorable Judge Don Kirkpatrick calling all to order. Followed by prayer, the pledges, and announcing there was a quorum for business to commence. Present were all four Commissioners: Brandon Brown (precinct 1), Virgil Melton (precinct 2), Keith Pearson (precinct 3) and Tim West (precinct 4).
Reading of the minutes were unanimously dispensed with and payment of the county’s bills unanimously approved, leading into general business. The only item, coming from a citizen who wanted to thank Commissioners Melton, Pearson and West for attending Pattern Development’s open house meeting the previous evening.
There was supposed to be discussion and consideration over a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Van Zandt County. The objective of the MOU is for county employees to have access to DPS records. The item graciously tabled, as the DPS representative called the court, reporting to be very sick.
Voices Grant Not Approved
The next item on the agenda concerned the status of FY 2019 Voices grant. This item is simply a status report given by Sandy Hill, County Auditor and Bobby Colacino of the probation department. Colacino had applied for a reimbursement grant that did not get approved. The way it works, once a reimbursement grant is applied for, the county extends funding until the grant comes in. The funds from the grant then reimburse the county. Since the grant was not approved, this means the funds must be reimbursed to the county by other funding means. Colacino is in the process of seeking other grants that will cover this obligation. No action needed.
Christus EMS: Contract up for renewal
Correction: [Mother Frances has been providing services to Van Zandt County and surrounding cities for about 30 years.] The hospital is affiliated with Christus Emergency Medical Services (EMS), formerly Champion EMS. With the name change, Christus takes on Trinity Mother Frances’ trademark purple.
The item on the Commissioner’s agenda, was to consider whether to renew or extend Christus’ contract for EMS services. In a surprising twist, several EMS services attended court to petition that the Commissioners neither renew or extend the contract with Christus, but put the contract out for bid. The contract is up February 1, 2020. To cancel the contract, a letter must be submitted 365 days prior to the expiration of the contract, or the contract automatically renews.
Proctor Fights to Continue to Serve Van Zandt
Jason Proctor, Ministry President of Christus Mother Frances Hospital was present to speak on behalf of Christus EMS and Trinity Mother Frances. In addition, Christus EMS Chief Executive Officer, Stan Holden and Doctor Kenneth Nixon of Christus Trinity Clinic, also both spoke on behalf of Christus EMS. All three expressed surprise that complaints have suddenly and recently arisen. These complaints accuse Christus’ paramedics of poor quality of service. The complaints center on lagging response times and paramedics displaying condescending attitudes toward police and fire personnel. One individual stood to give testimony that his mother had not been treated for pain during transport. Proctor, Holden, and Nixon assured the court that whatever is wrong, can be quickly fixed.
Proctor additionally argued, that moving EMS teams around the county was a way to manage multiple calls that pull service away from an area. He spoke with pride of their advanced communication centers. It seems, that re-assigning teams as needed, was spoken of as a weakness. Proctor disagreed, calling it good management.
UT Health Fights For Van Zandt EMS Business
One of the EMS services fighting for Van Zandt business, is UT Health, East Texas. John Smith, CEO of UT Health, and Scott Berkley, responsible for Business Development, were present to speak on behalf of UTHealth EMS services. Berkley argued above all, that putting the contract up for bid would allow Van Zandt county to define the type of services wanted, including response times.
Berkley asked the court why now, when the contract is up for renewal, will Christus finally fix its service issues. Why not long before this. In response, Proctor wondered why there were no complaints logged with Christus prior to UT Health becoming interested in Van Zandt’s EMS business. Commissioner Pearson boiled both arguments down to what is actually at stake. He described how the EMS service makes no money. The hospital to which the EMS service delivers the patient is the entity that makes money. The EMS service assists in this process, as they bring the patient to the hospital to which the EMS service is connected. That is, unless the patient stipulates otherwise.
Others outside of Christus Mother Frances and UT Health also asked the court to let the contract go out for bid. Equally important urging the court were Grand Saline’s Chief of Police, Jeremy Barker, Captain Brian Horton of Canton’s Fire Department, and a third EMS service.
Commissioners Discuss with Differing Perspectives
Once all arguments had been heard, the commissioners discussed their differing perspectives. Commissioner Melton thought 30 years of service deserved some consideration. He also didn’t want to lose certain services that Christus and Mother Francis Hospital offer: including emergency air lift services and the potential that Mother Francis will build an emergency room at Christus Trinity Clinic in Canton. The clinic is located at 18780 I-20, Canton, TX 75103 (off I-20 and Edgewood Road). Commissioner West agreed with Melton.
Commissioner Brown started out remembering all the great services rendered to his family by Mother Frances. He said he intended no disrespect, but that bids are healthy. He made a motion to send Christus EMS and Mother Francis Hospital notice that the contract would be terminated on February 1, 2020. In addition, the motion puts the county’s EMS services out for bid. Commissioner Pearson likewise, agreed with Brown.
With a split vote, Judge Kirkpatrick needed to break the tie. He voted in favor of Commissioner Browns motion. Hence, the notice will be sent to Christus Mother Frances, and the contract will be put out to bid.
New County Personnel Policies
Moving on in the agenda, Dan Maucieri, Human Resources Director, presented new policies for the Van Zandt County Employee handbook. A most interesting policy was presented to the court for approval. This policy in fact, allows that an employee may donate their comp-time to someone in a serious medical situation that has exhausted all their comp and sick time. All new personnel policies, including the one mentioned, were approved without amendment.
An oath and Bond was amended and approved for Lisa Hutcherson, Deputy Treasurer. The 2018 Financial & Investment Report of County Treasurer was received and entered into the minutes of Commissioners court. In addition, monthly reports were approved, as well as several budget amendments for different departments. The motion to adjourn was seconded and so moved.
Susan Skommesa is a freelance investigative reporter and editor with The Northeast Texan. For the most part, her many interests include research, public speaking, studying Biblical and Paleo-Hebrew, renovating houses, all things health and nutrition, knitting, homesteading, and teaching and writing on topics of faith, gardening, pets, chickens, and human interest.