Ambulance Service Nearly Ends

Five counties, including Daviess County, were slated to forfeit their ambulance by January 1, 1971 unless proper measures were taken. The other four counties to be affected were Gentry, Worth, Mercer, and Harrison counties.

Five counties, including Daviess County, were slated to forfeit their ambulance by January 1, 1971 unless proper measures were taken. The other four counties to be affected were Gentry, Worth, Mercer, and Harrison counties.

This circumstance was due to five factors: (1) Inability to comply with the demands under the Medicare program. (2) Questionable position under definitions of the Federal wage and and Hour laws; (3) Questionable position under regulation of the Missouri public Service Commission; (4) Possible past and forthcoming regulations of the Federal Highway safety Act; (5) Risk of financial disaster, life, limb and happiness.

The five point notice was signed by all the funeral directors in the 5-county area. No one really blamed these funeral directors for their decision. Ambulance operations were marginally profitable or actually lost money. The seriousness of these realities meant the end of local ambulance service unless Daviess County set up some sort of an ambulance service by January 1, 1971.

The people were asked to vote a special levy to provide funds to purchase ambulances and to employ sufficient personnel to man them around the clock. In addition, there was to be a charge for each ambulance trip.

In mid-October, members of the Daviess County Commission initially declared plans to set up a three ambulance vehicle system — one vehicle each at Gallatin, Jamesport, and Pattonsburg. Later, it was suggested the county could be serviced by two ambulance vehicles, one in Gallatin and the other at Pattonsburg. The Jamesport area could best be served from Trenton. It was also pointed out that on average an area containing 24,000 people could expect one ambulance call per day. For the service to be profitable, an ambulance should serve the needs of 70,000 to 80,000 people living within a radius of nine miles. The goal was to get an ambulance where needed in 15 to 25 minutes. The Highway Safety Act would provide funds for the purchase of ambulances on a 50-50 basis with the local governments. The suggested type of ambulance would cost $8,732.

The only way to solve the ambulance dilemma was to vote a special levy and allow the county officials to organize some sort of new service. A large majority felt the need of such a service, but the levy vote failed the two-thirds majority by 61 votes. It was expected that the advisory council would try to have another election. Some felt the failure to pass the levy would tie the hands of the court due to the extreme poor financial condition of Daviess County. There were no funds available to operate an ambulance service, no matter how small the system. However, the county prosecutor informed the Daviess County Commission that they couldn’t legally call for another election for the purpose of voting a levy to operate an ambulance service for at least 12 months. He also stated there wasn’t anything to prevent the county from going ahead with plans for an ambulance service, financed by general revenue, but that would be difficult.

In mid-November, Robert Calvert was setting up a private ambulance service in Harrison County and was willing to expand his services into Daviess County if financial arrangements could be made. A study was made. Two proposals were made, one a county-wide service and a second covering only the Gallatin area.

Mr. Calvert, who’d operated an ambulance service in Kansas City for five years, would provide a manned ambulance in Gallatin to provide 24-hour service. The attendant would be hired locally and the Gallatin ambulance would be tied in with a network of ambulance service headquarters in Bethany where a countywide service was being organized. The Gallatin service would require a subsidy of $250 a month, but the actual cost of subsidy would be lower or eliminated if Calvert’s income was sufficient. He believed he must have $500 a month to operate successfully.

Several suggestions were made to raise the subsidy revenue. Some thought the Rotary Club, L ions Club, and the Chamber of Commerce should each pay $500 to be added to donations from concerned citizens in order to underwrite the plan and assure a start the ambulance service for a period of six months. During this time it was hoped the service could be developed on a permanent basis. The service was to start January 1, 1971, when the funeral homes planned to cease ambulance operation. In addition to subsidy, those using the ambulance would be charged $30 per call and 50 cents a mile for the trip. The service was to be set up as a non-profit corporation to be named the Emergency Ambulance Service Inc. Membership for the ambulance service was to be sold for $10 a year per family.

At the approaching end of the 1970, the ambulance was made available for a new ambulance service for the Gallatin community. Robert Eads of Gallatin was employed to be on call 24-hours a day. Although the ambulance service was set up with the aid of a subsidy of $500 each from the three Gallatin civic groups, the ambulance would respond to calls by anyone and go whenever or wherever it was called.

— information taken from 10 newspaper articles of the Gallatin Democrat spanning 1970; researched by Wilburn Bush