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Group Considers Future of Ambulance Service for Buchanan County

The committee is looking to get an ambulance district proposal before voters.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)  Emergency ambulance service in Buchanan County will soon be in transition and a community group is looking to the future.

The Community Ambulance Response to Emergencies, or C.A.R.E., is putting the wheels in motion to plan for a community without Heartland ambulances.

In less than 12 months, Heartland will discontinue providing the service.

"It's a money losing operation.virtually everywhere so hospitals have gotten out of the ambulance business," said Dwight Scroggins, a member of the C.A.R.E. committee

Like in most other communities, the ambulance business is a money loser. So, when Heartland ends ambulance services next July 1, another option will be needed.

"The first option is an ambulance district, which takes the politics out of it," said committee member Jackie Spainhower. "We have the option with the county could run an ambulance district and all these paramedics would become county employees."

To make that happen, voters would have to give their approval. The C.A.R.E. committee is working to get 3,500 signatures on a petition.

"By signing, you're not agreeing with an ambulance district or disagreeing with an ambulance district," Spainhower said. "You're giving us the option to put it on the ballot so you can decide in November."

Whether the county creates an ambulance district, or contracts with a for-profit company to take over, which is another option, it will probably mean a sales tax increase.

"You or someone you care about has something bad happen for which they need ambulance services and you want a top-flight ambulance service to respond. That costs money," said Scroggins.

The ultimate goal is high-quality emergency care.

"We are trying to get a provider in there who, as closely as possible, can continue the service at the same level," Scroggins said.

"Food, shelter, clothing, medical services are about the most essential you can get," said C.A.R.E. committee chair Scott Meierhoffer. "I don't think there's anybody in this community who wants to go without medical services nor do we need to or should."

The C.A.R.E. committee has until August 15 to collect the 3,500 signatures needed to put the ambulance district proposal on the November ballot.

The group hopes to be halfway toward that total by this Thursday.
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