Will merger impact emergency medical response times in SE Indiana?

Rescue 69 to merge with Ripley County

VERSAILLES, Ind. (FOX19) - An emergency medical service that has been a staple in Versailles, Ind. for 40 years is about to be shuttered. It’s all part of a merger with Ripley County that is happening first thing next week.

Ripley County EMS Director Scott Huffman says this is not a hostile takeover. He said Rescue 69’s Board of Directors came to the county after losing their certification with a local hospital. The county offered to take on those employees. But longtime EMTs with Rescue 69 believe costs will soar and response times could suffer.

"Our chief called each of us individually to let us know that, basically our fight was gone,” said EMT Stacy Sams.

Rescue 69 covers 55 percent of Ripley County, said Sams, who has been serving the people here 40 years.

"We had a group meeting last night, where we talked about our turning another page and the direction we’re headed and most of the employees left with tears in their eyes,” said Ron Reynolds, who is the Director of Rescue 69.

Starting next week, he said, Rescue 69 will no longer be making 911 runs. Reynolds took over after the prior director was fired last year.

"There was a date changed on some official documentation that needed to go to the State of Indiana, for us to continue being a certified ambulance provider,” said Reynolds, who added, they’re all paying now for his mistakes and losing their identity to the county. “Take that as a pride thing or just a conflict between, back and forth being rivals, throughout the years, a lot of people chose not to go that route.”

Sams is one of those who chose to resign.

"We were absolutely blindsided by the issues and officials at the hospital thought we couldn't handle the recovery,” said Sams.

She said the furthest reaches of the county could have over a 30-minute response time to the scene and another 30 minutes from there, getting to any one of the five hospitals they serve.

"The average Joe in Ripley County probably does not know this is going on,” said Reynolds.

He said Ripley County EMS is asking for $1 million in operating costs, while Rescue 69 has been operating on only $90,000 a year.

FOX19 asked Ripley County EMS Director Scott Huffman about that.

"We’re not looking at an additional cost to taxpayers, this isn’t going to be a big burden,” said Huffman, who noted they’ll work out of a building in Osgood initially, then the plan is to move operations back to the Versailles building Rescue 69 is in currently.

"We’re actually gonna put a paramedic ambulance on the west side of the county. It’ll actually double the number of paramedics we have working at any one time in the county,” said Huffman. “I think it’s gonna be a good thing for the whole county.”

Ripley County commissioners will hold a public meeting May 20 at 8 a.m. at the Annex building in Versailles. Reynolds said the public can comment. They have everything they need to keep the ambulances in service at Rescue 69, unless County Commissioners can make a contract change at the last minute.

Monica Miller sent us this email about Rescue 69: “I just wanted to give my opinion on the rescue 69 issue. My daughter is 14. Has a lot of medical issues 1 being epileptic seizures. My daughter sometimes turns blue with the seizures depending which type her body has at that time. If it wasn’t for rescue 69 at times my daughter may not be here. My daughter can’t wait for an ambulance to come from Batesville or Milan or where ever in the county may be at that time. We need rescue 69 in our area for 911 issues.”

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