By Kathi Bliss
The Lockhart City Council is expected to make a decision about the controversial plan to turn management of Lockhart-Caldwell County EMS over to Seton during their regular meeting scheduled for Oct. 3.
The notion, which drew heavy fire last month as residents discovered a possibility that all EMS employees might not be able to transition with the service, was proposed under a new Federal “1115 Wavier Program,” which allows municipalities to partner with medical service companies to maximize dollar-for-dollar spending under a Federal grant.
Under the 1115 Waiver, the management organization (Seton) would receive $1.46 for every $1 the municipality (Lockhart/Caldwell County) sends to the Federal government. That money, according to Seton’s area administrator Neal Kelley, would not only fund the EMS service, but would help to fund Seton’s other local programs, including charity health care, the Children’s Care-A-Van and the other nearly $1 million per year that Seton invests in health care in Caldwell County.
In addition, under the management agreement with the 1115 Waiver, the City of Lockhart and Caldwell County could stand to save upwards of $2 million on emergency medical service budgets over a four-year contract.
In a series of public meetings held over the last two weeks, Seton staff, the Lockhart City Council and the Caldwell County Commissioners Court have met to discuss the proposal, in order to receive more information and share that information with the public.
The chief opponents of the proposal appear to be doctors and administrators with Central Texas Medical Center, who instead have proposed that the EMS service be severed from the city and placed under the management of a new 501(c)3 organization, which would also be eligible for the 1115 funds.
The new organization would be a separate entity, they said, and allow all stakeholders, including CTMC and St. David’s, as well as Seton, to have a seat at the table – and a shot at the money.
Though they volunteered to help organize the new entity, they were unclear as to how they would suggest the new EMS organization would look, who would be responsible for it, or how the money would be shared in the health care community.
Seton, on the other hand, which manages EMS service for the City of Luling, makes a clear proposal for management, under which Lockhart and Caldwell County would maintain ownership of the equipment and stations currently in operation; Seton would be responsible for staffing, billing, collections and management of the service.
Among the public, the main concern is the notion that, failing a clear directive from the patient or family, that patients would be transported to the parent Seton hospitals, rather than to CTMC or a St. David’s facility.
However, Kelley and members of the current Lockhart EMS staff gave assurances that the public’s wishes will and would be respected in terms of provider choice, and that protocols are in place which dictate where patients are taken, based on the nature and severity of their injuries, in the event they are unable to specify their desires.
A similar proposal, made to the City of Lockhart just over a year ago, failed when the community demanded that “we want to keep our EMS service,” and not turn it over to another organization.
The Lockhart City Council meets in the Glosserman Conference Room of Lockhart City Hall, 308 W. San Antonio St., at 7:30 p.m. The meetings are open to the public and televised on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.