Johnson County’s valuation will likely decline by 14% this year, which means less money to operate the county and tighter budgets for every department and special district.

The Johnson County Rural Health District is one special district that is taking steps to plan for the future – and a tighter budget.

Last week, the rural health board sent a letter to the Johnson County Hospital Board of Trustees requesting that the hospital board consider blending the rural health care district with the hospital district.

For more than 20 years, the district has contracted with Buffalo EMS to provide ambulance service in northern Johnson County. That service has been excellent. Buffalo EMS EMTs are well trained and amazing at what they do. No one, including the board, is questioning that.

But the district’s 10-year contract with Buffalo EMS will expire in September 2020, and the rural health board wants to consider all options. That’s a smart move considering most public entities have to put large-dollar projects out to bid. For each of the past three years, the district has budgeted nearly $1 million for ambulance service in northern Johnson County.

One idea the district board has is to contract or blend services with the hospital, a move that could save the district money but maintain the level of service Johnson County residents have come to expect.

The next step is for the boards to meet and discuss the idea.

We don’t know if this is a viable solution. But the hospital has the resources to investigate it, and a feasibility study to examine if this would be a viable solution for the hospital and rural health should absolutely be considered.

We’ve long been proponents of partnerships as a way to save taxpayers dollars but also to better our community. Organizations should share resources, and this may be an opportunity to do just that.

It could also help the healthcare center boost revenues. For years, the healthcare center has been in the red. The hospital board should be looking at every legal, ethical and moral way to increase revenue.

According to rural health’s letter, federal law allows for critical access hospitals, which Johnson County’s is, to recover 99% of actual costs for ambulance service, which could result in considerable financial gain for the hospital district with less operational cost for the rural health district.  

The potential benefits of a partnership – for both parties – are immense. The hospital and rural health board and indeed the taxpayers of Johnson County cannot afford to ignore this opportunity to investigate potentially positive outcomes of collaborating to provide ambulance service.

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