More information is needed if the city ambulance service is to enter into an out-of-town transfer agreement with Mercy Medical Center, the Internal Operations Committee voted Tuesday. The agreement would allow city ambulance service to act as a back up to Mercy’s transport service in the case of inclement weather or scheduling conflicts.

Emergency Medical Services Director Andrew McGovern said Mercy approached his department with the proposal. Under certain circumstances, Mercy transports patients out of town to Davenport or Iowa City to receive treatment not available locally.

The hospital contracts with a company to provide this service, and helicopter transfers are possible in emergency situations, but sometimes poor weather or unlucky timing can leave patients without a ride.

“Because of the delay, there’s detriment to patient care,” McGovern said. “They want somebody to fill in those spots.”

The city would only be called upon sporadically, according to Fire Marshal Mike Brown.

He estimated that city ambulances could be used three or four times a year, or not at all, depending on how things work out.

“It’s basically a redundancy,” Brown explained. “A back up to their back up.”

Committee member John Rowland expressed concerns with the proposal. An already understaffed emergency services department could be further depleted by call-outs from Mercy, he said.

“The staffing, as I see it, is pretty low anyhow,” Rowland said. “I think it’s more important to take care of what’s at home. I feel like that’s the priority.”

Rowland also questioned whether the move would be financially beneficial to Clinton. The city personnel performing the transfers would likely be off-duty firefighters who would be earning overtime pay. Also, cities are cutting ambulance services nationwide in favor of private contractors, Rowland said, and that may eventually be something Clinton has to consider.

Brown said that the participating employees’ wages would be paid out of revenue generated by the transfer itself, but that the city would be responsible for billing.

Brown and McGovern were asked to obtain more information about the agreement and present it next month and to consider the possibility of an annual flat fee that would be charged to the hospital in lieu of billing on an individual basis.

Follow Ben Jacobson on Twitter @BJacobsonHerald.

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