House hopes third bill is the charm as it sends the Senate compromise legislation to address ambulance delays

Rep. Ken Fleming, R-Louisville

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The House has passed and sent the Senate a bill aimed at improving ambulances’ response times, for both emergent and non-emergent transfers.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ken Fleming, R-Louisville, is the third measure on the topic this year, after 13 stakeholders put in more than 1,000 hours of work to reach a compromise.

“House Bill 777 has been a wild and wooly ride,” Fleming said while presenting the bill Monday on the House floor, where it passed 77-15 after little debate.

The Kentucky Hospital Association initiated the legislation, citing a statewide poll that found Kentuckians offered broad support for measures to increase the number of ambulance services in the state.

Fleming commended the work of stakeholders’ efforts to find solutions that were in in the best interest of the patients and their quality of care, while also addressing the needs of the industry.

“This bill basically comes down to this: transporting patients from one point to another,” he said, later adding, ” “We’ve got a problem, and 777 is trying to address those timing issues.”

Fleming said he had heard from individuals who waited eight hours to several days for a transfer, and he said a friend’s sister died because she was not transported in a timely manner.

Co-sponsor Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, said “This is about strengthening our system, our emergency services in Kentucky. This is not and it should never be about revenue. . . . Our job is to ensure quality patient care.”

A key provision in HB 777 would establish a task force to meet between legislative sessions to study emergency medical services and make recommendations to the next General Assembly. It would require the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services to create a special committee to study issues defined in the bill, such as needs of patients with behavioral-health issues.

The bill would also change the certificate-of-need requirements to allow cities, counties and hospitals to transport patients under certain conditions without obtaining a certificate, effectively a license. For example, a hospital could create an ambulance service limited to transporting patients from that hospital.

Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, said picking and choosing groups for different certificate-of-need rules opens the door for others, noting that birthing centers have been asking for this for years.

HB 777 would also:

  • Require the state health cabinet to investigate and hold hearings regarding complaints related to ambulance services, while leaving disciplinary enforcement to KBEMS;
  • Make it easier for patients to register complaints;
  • Give the cabinet complete and immediate access to all data and records of KBEMS and its contractors;
  • Make KBEMS an independent agency of state government, rather than part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System;
  • Add KBEMS to the list of boards and commissions for which the Public Protection Cabinet provides administrative services, technical assistance and advice;
  • Exempt organ-procurement organization vehicles from speed limits and traffic-flow patterns while transporting a human organ or tissue in an emergency situation; and
  • Create a Technical Advisory Committee on Emergency Medical Services to advise regarding Medicaid EMS issues.
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