Out of Service

Published 10:38 am Monday, October 22, 2012

COLERAIN – Lewiston Woodville EMS began serving the citizens of the Colerain area last week.

The switch came after Colerain EMS ceased operations for six months to reorganize and obtain a Medicare Provider ID number.

“Colerain EMS ran into some financial issues,” Bertie County Emergency Management Coordinator Mitch Cooper. “They have been having trouble getting a Medicare Provide ID number.”

Cooper said he appeared before the Bertie County Commissioners a few months ago and asked the board to approve paying the county appropriation to Colerain ($54,000 annually) over six months rather than 12 as they tried to finish the necessary steps to obtain the number.

He said despite that help, Colerain was still not able to finish the steps and said there were “management problems in house.”

That led to a decision for Colerain to take six months out of service to reorganize and finish the necessary steps. Cooper said the department did not have funding to continue operations, but would bill Medicare just over $121,000 once the ID number was in place.

The billing comes from calls already executed by the department for which they are not able to bill because of the lack of a provider number. Medicare will accept back billing for up to one year, according to Cooper.

“The goal is to get Colerain back on their feet within approximately six months and also put together a five-year and 10-year (EMS) plan for the entire county,” Cooper said.

Bertie’s EMS Director said Colerain made the decision to approach Lewiston Woodville about taking over the duties.

We gave them the choice and they approached Lewiston,” he said.

Once that contact was made, Lewiston Woodville EMS Captain Jim Wiggins said his department took time to make sure they were able to handle the additional calls without jeopardizing the financial security of the agency or causing problems for service to Lewiston Woodville.

“We evaluated the call volume, the availability of personnel and the availability of equipment,” Wiggins said. “We also took a hard look at finances, because that was our biggest issue.”

Wiggins said the department carefully studied at revenues versus expenditures for taking over services in Colerain.

“Finances were a top priority,” he said. “If we can’t look out for our own, we’ve fallen down on the job.”

Eventually, LWEMS decided they could handle the calls in Colerain for the next six months and agreed to take over emergency operations.

Wiggins said there is a Lewiston Woodville EMS truck and personnel located in Colerain at all times.

“We are comfortable we can provide for the emergency needs of both communities,” Wiggins said. “We’re using the same philosophy we’ve always used here and operating Colerain the same way. It is a proven effective way of operating. It has worked well for us and we think it will work well in Colerain too.”

Lewiston Woodville is using personnel that had been operating under the auspices of Colerain EMS. Wiggins said he would estimate 90-95 percent of what was happening in Colerain was using the existing personnel there.

The vehicle stationed in Colerain, however, is from Lewiston and that likely will not change. Due to insurance and other regulations, Wiggins said it was simpler to use the vehicles they already operate.

In addition to billing for the calls, Lewiston Woodville will receive the balance of Colerain’s share of the county appropriation (approximately $22,500) for their work there. Wiggins said he appreciated the county’s willingness to help in the process.

Wiggins said Lewiston Woodville was happy to be able to help their county neighbors.

“We are very pleased to help,” he said. “You’re either in this for the money or you care about the citizens. Obviously, being a volunteer myself, I care about the citizens.

“This is something we need to do,” he continued. “EMS everywhere should be a brotherhood. If a department needs our help, we ought to help them. If we needed help, I feel like we could get it.”

Wiggins said he was also pleased the department had the resources to help.

“We are going to do our best to provide the quality care they need and deserve,” he said.