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Ambulance Subsidy Suit Being Revived

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The long dormant lawsuit against the I county's award of an ambulance subsidy I contract to Superior Ambulance Co. will I come back to life later this month. Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney I Casper Kast yesterday told the Board of I Commissioners' Health, Education and Social Services Committee a pre-trial hearing in the suit will be held July 30. The suit was filed a year ago by Washtenaw Ambulance Co. of Ypsilanti and has not been active since a hearing last October. Kast told the committee he will present a motion at the Hearing to strike certain portions of the complaint. And besides the motion, the hearing may also serve as a catalyst to move the law towards a conclusión. After the lawwas filed the county refused to sign the contract which provided Superior with a subsidy ranging up to $150,000 annually. Presently, Superior is providing ambulance service to Washtenaw under a verbal agreement providing for subsidy and stipulations accorded in the unsigned contract. Kast also told the commissioners he has learned that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit have dropped individual charges against the commissioners. Originally, the suit was filed against the commissioners and Administrator K. Ross Childs in their capacities as county officials and individually. The committee also directed Administrative Aide William Parker to prepare a report justifying the size of the subsidy Superior was awarded. The report was ordered after Cmsr. Frederick Schwal of Ypsilanti Township said that because of the lawsuit, "This contract could go on for two or three years with the county paying $150,000 a year without ever determining why such a high subsidy is needed." Schwall specifically questioned why there was a need for a subsidy when, in the words of one official, the county presently is "over-ambulanced." áichard Muhs, emergency health ser coördinator for the Health Departit, said that by standards set by the National Ambulance Association Washtenaw could actually be served by five ambulances. Presently 10 ambulances are operating in the county. Muhs said NAA guidelines show an average of one ambulance run each day for every 10,000 population. In Washtenahaoinestoabout690runsa I month, añd he said Superior's five ambulances could cover this need. la fact, under the old contract with Superior that company said it needed between 700 and 800 runs a month to break even financially. Cmsfs. O. Herbert Ellis, chairman of the committee, and William E. M. Lands, both of Ann Arbor, responded to Schwall's question on the size of the subsidy by pointing out that most of it goes to pay for the availability of ambulances. They contended any company could make a profit operating in the metropolitan áreas, but said the subsidy is needed to provide service to the rural áreas. Schwall, who was not on the board when the subsidy was agreed on, added that since the county is paying so high for service it should take steps to make sure the interests of accident victims are served above business interests. He said he had received two reports of ambulances from both the Superior and Washtenaw companies arriving at the same accident, resulting in confusión and delay in getting the victims to a hospital. Charles (Skip) Sayre, accountant for the Washtenaw Ambulance, related one such incident that resulted in a man and wife having to pay an ambulance bul $20 more than necessary. He said his company's ambulance was the first to arrive, but when the Superior ambulance showed up pólice officials at the scène decided each ambulance should take one of the victims. So instead of having to pay for only one trip to the hospital, the couple had to pay for two, he said. Schwall maintained that the first ambulance at the accident scène should have the moral obligation to take the patients. Ellis claimed however, this could result in "ambulances running over each other to get to accidents." Lands also said the county could do nothing to elimínate this problem, and that it must be left up to the officers policing the accident.