Saturday, January 19, 2008

I'm Still Confused

I see in today's Northwest Arkansas Times that state Attorney General "Justin" McDaniel has advised changes in the proposed interlocal cooperation agreement for ambulance services.Than means the Washington County Quorum Court and the cities of Elkins, Farmington, Goshen, Greenland, Johnson, Lincoln, Prairie Grove, West Fork and Winslow will have to re-approve the scheme with the added provisions.

I'm still confused about the project and the process. Why is Mayor Dan Coody so fired up to approve a $250,000 No Bid Contract Monopoly? I've tried to understand why a no bid contract is ever a good deal and why County Administrator John Gibson is so adamant that Fayetteville has a responsibility to join in subsidize the cost for other participating cities.

From their inception, public utility model EMS systems like the one being advocated here have been controversial. The Fayetteville City Council and our residents need to know that the city is going to be in control and that quality control is being met, including finances, employees, equipment, compliance with regulations, control center and deployment policies, guaranteed response times, and accountability ensured by making it possible to replace a contractor immediately for failure to perform.

The University of Oklahoma’s Center for Economic and Management Research has designed an ideal EMS system model, making patient care its highest priority, followed by financial stability and a professional work environment for field personnel. The model embraced the idea that no organization should be allowed to provide service without earning that right through competition and that it would guarantee that customers and taxpayers get full value for their money. Maybe that would be a good place to start.

Whatever model our city chooses to assure an Emergency Medical and Ambulance Service for our community, local control of patient care policies and cost efficiency should be priorities. I hope someone smarter than me can explain: (1) why a no-bid monopoly contract is ever a good deal for our citizens and tapayers; (2) why Fayetteville gains anything by surrendering accountability and control of the EMS system to other cities; and (3) why it is imperative that Fayetteville join the interlocal compact if Springdale, Tontitown, and Elm Springs are free to do their own thing.

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