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WSAZ Investigates | Bill aims to eliminate licenses to operate ambulance service

WSAZ Investigates | House Bill 505 aims to expand EMS operations
Published: Feb. 24, 2022 at 7:25 PM EST
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MAGOFFIN COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) - A new bill introduced in the Kentucky state Legislature could soon improve policies to establish an ambulance service.

It’s a piece of change the Koch family’s been praying for.

“There should never be a holdup for people getting emergency services,” said Amber Koch. “It’s unfair to the people of Kentucky that need those services.”

WSAZ first introduced you to the Koch family after their heartbreaking story. Help arrived too late, and their loved one died.

Last September, our investigation revealed an ambulance wasn’t available during more than a dozen emergencies in Magoffin County.

Each time a crew from a neighboring county had to respond, according to 911 logs.

County leaders say red tape at the state level is to blame for holding up life-saving services.

According to a draft of House Bill 505, it would eliminate the need for a new ambulance service to obtain a certificate of need.

The legislation, HB 505, would make the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services (KBEMS) an independent state government agency and provide more equal representation on its board.

“There are several other counties in Eastern Kentucky going through [applying for a CON] like Magoffin County went through, and their [applications] are being held up,” Koch said.

Fleming’s bill would restructure the duties of KBEMS, sending key responsibilities like licensing ambulances and data reporting to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. KBEMS would retain its authority over EMS personnel, including licensure and certification of personnel, regulatory authority, training and education, and personnel complaints investigations. The changes reflect the duties of other medical services boards like Kentucky’s Boards of Nursing and Medical Licensure.

Under the provisions of HB 505, ambulance services would no longer need to obtain a certificate of need (CON) to operate. This would make Kentucky consistent with 48 other states that do not require CON for ambulance services. Stakeholders say the new duties and functions will help improve patient transport times, especially for “individuals facing potentially fatal situations.”

In Eastern Kentucky, this could speed up the process for three counties currently seeking to obtain the CON to operate an ambulance service.

It’s something existing providers in the area have fought applications in the past, though the current providers may be unable to keep up with the demand.

“It’s something that we hear all the time that Kentucky is behind the times, behind times in numerous things, but I feel like this could take a step and get us ahead to make motions that people aren’t having to suffer for because of the choices of others,” Koch said.

Aside from Kentucky, Hawaii is the only other state that requires a CON to open and operate an ambulance. The Kentucky bill would move forward to the Health and House Standing Committee on Health and Family Services.

WSAZ reached out to the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Ken Flemming for a comment but hasn’t heard back yet.

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