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Fire board approves CareFlite contract

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Residents concerned ambulances could have 30-minute response times

The Ellis County Press

FERRISEmergency Services District No. 5 approved a controversial contract Monday, Sept. 22 that will make way for CareFlite to handle ambulance calls, but the provisions of that contract are the point of contention among residents and volunteer firefighters who have seen it.

The vote – members are appointed by county commissioners – was unanimous.

Among the main points, CareFlite’s ambulances will not have a staging area in Ellis County’s ESD No. 5, which is the size of the Ferris Independent School District.

Instead, they will respond within 30 minutes from locations in DeSoto or Lancaster, according to provisions of the contract and public statements made by CareFlite representatives.

"Once the attorney has finished the review, it’s pretty much done," said ESD No. 5 president Mark Hope.

Ellis County is home to nine geographically drawn ESDs, which lay and collect property taxes to fund equipment and other emergency services functions for rural areas.

County commissioners recently rescinded a contract with CareFlite due to questions involving response time, staging areas for ambulances and the contract award amount: $1.

The $1 contract amount was also approved for ESD No. 5, which currently has a contract with East Texas Medical for ambulance service.

However, commissioners and firefighters outside of Ellis County said CareFlite comes back to the local governing bodies and asks for higher subsidies, sometimes in the six-figure range.

Since there are no staging areas in ESD No. 5, residents in need of ambulance service are faced with a 30-minute response time; however, a contract stipulation calls for mutual aid between other ESDs with the East Texas Medical ambulances.

Ellis County Commissioner Dennis Robinson, whose road and bridge Precinct 1 boundaries cover the ESD No. 5 territory, said each of the nine ESDs can enter into ambulance service contracts with anyone they want.

Robinson said he doesn’t favor nine separate companies operating ambulance service in the county, but state laws leave the county with no room to stop it.

The recent backlash on commissioners for their CareFlite contract – which was later rescinded – came about due to fire personnel pressure, as well as a lack of specifics.

Hope, the board president who no longer resides in his district, said no participation from ESD No. 5 residents was evident during the vote.

"There was no representation of citizens at all," Hope said.

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