Glacier County is in discussions with Northern Rockies Medical Center (NRMC) and Kalispell Regional Medical Center (KRMC) to get out of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) business. According to Chief Financial Officer Chancy Kittson, officials are looking at Aug. 1 as a “realistic date” to complete the “transfer” of Glacier County EMS to NRMC.
Once the transfer agreements are prepared, CFO Kittson said NRMC officials have requested the Commissioners “move quickly” to complete the transfer.
Kittson provided the update in his financial report during the County Commissioner meeting on June 25.
Glacier County and NRMC are currently in the process of identifying the legal process to transfer or donate the service’s assets, including the ambulances and other equipment, to NRMC, said Kittson.
Human Resources Direc-tor Mike Kittson and NRMC’s Human Resources Department are working together to “try to transition as much staff as they can” to NRMC.
CFO Kittson said Glacier County “had the discussion” to continue to provide 1.34 mills in funding, “but that would be the limit of it…” Those mills will generate approximately $35,000 in tax revenue for the EMS operation.
Glacier County Commis-sion Chairman Michael DesRosier stated with voters rejecting the mill levy to “fully fund” EMS operations a second time, this is the “most positive” option to keep “EMS viable and in the community.”
Commissioner John Over-cast noted KRMC, who is currently in negotiations with NRMC to merge services, will have a “lot deeper pockets” to “carry Medicare and Medicaid bills” than Glacier County. Kittson concurred adding, “KRMC had a greater capacity and a higher tolerance to carry the accounts receivable than the County does…billing is their business. EMS is actually a good fit.”
CFO Kittson reported he is in the process of sharing “the cost to run it and the revenues” and other information with NRMC officials. “Kalispell is on board,” said Kittson, and had an employee on staff to tour the facility and meet with EMS staff on June 23. The agreement with NRMC will also include language stating KRMC may be a partner, he said, adding the transfer from Glacier County to NRMC will be “fast moving.”
Under the County’s furlough plan, which was extended into June and July, Glacier County EMS is operating as a “reduced service” with on call staff.
“Emergency transport is critical for patients in rural areas, and across Montana, EMS providers struggle to survive on revenues collected from ambulance runs. People from across Montana are having the same conversation about how to maintain EMS in rural areas because those services are disappearing more and more often,” said Cherie Taylor, NRMC Chief Executive Officer.
“NRMC is proposing a sustainable model through revenues from ambulance runs, staff working at NRMC in areas of need, existing mill levy and community support. It is going to take a collaborative effort to save EMS, so it is there when any of us need it,” said Taylor.
“NRMC will only be able to provide as much EMS as resources allow; whether it is people or revenues. We know that if we do not try, then our community will lose this valuable resource. I believe EMS can be successful with everyone coming together to make it work to serve Glacier County patients,” she concluded.
CFO Kittson also reported the “data gathering” for the County’s claim against the Indian Health Service (IHS) for past due payments is now “90%” complete. Glacier County has reduced their claim against IHS from $1.8 million to $1.1 million, and Kittson said those claims “can’t be questioned.”
County Attorney Terryl Matt explained the administrative process the County must follow to submit the claims to IHS. She said she requested Kittson, the EMS staff and Independent Contractor Rita Neuman research and compile the claims, being as complete as possible so IHS cannot dispute them.
From May 2019 through June 2020, Glacier County has paid Neuman $80,695.14 for “EMS consultant” services and travel expenses.
Matt said once IHS officials make a determination, the claims will then be filed in the Court of Claims in Washington, D.C.