New EMS district stirs debate among officials 


District  5 Supervisor Joe Williams (left) voices his concerns over county issues involving  Starkville’s new Emergency Medical Services District Monday night. (Photo By Faith Lifer, SDN)

By: 
Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

Amid controversy over Starkville’s new Emergency Medical Services District, members from Pafford EMS came before the Board of Supervisors Monday night. 

During the meeting, Oktibbeha County Emergency Management Director Kristen Campanella introduced Pafford EMS Operations Director Freddie Parker and Pafford EMS Oktibbeha County Manager Tony Fabela to the board. 

“As you know, the city assigned an EMS district back in June, and they chose Pafford EMS as their service provider,” Campanella said. “So I asked if they could come to y’all and introduce themselves as a courtesy.”

Mayor Lynn Spruill and Starkville’s Board of Aldermen chose Pafford as the Starkville’s EMS provider in May, establishing the city’s first EMS district zone. 

Previously, Starkville used OCH Regional Medical Center as its city and county provider.

“But I would like to also talk about the contracts,” Campanella added, referring to Pafford’s contract with Starkville.

Pafford’s contract currently dictates Campanella call Pafford for emergencies within city limits. 

However, the county takes issue with this directive considering there are county-owned buildings within city limits.

“I think there was some concern about you responding to county buildings within the city limit,” District  5 Supervisor Joe Williams said. 

Parker said Starkville’s EMS district was created within the city, which defines the legal limits for Pafford's care. 

“If the building is inside that, then we are going to respond to that location,” Parker said. “Now, if there is something that needs to be reworked, that would be between the county and the city.” 

Specifically, the county is concerned over Pafford charging the county when inmates from the Oktibbeha County Jail are transported. 

When OCH previously provided the services, the county was not charged for inmate transportation. 

Parker confirmed, legally, Pafford has to charge for transportation services to inmates.

Parker also confirmed the contract dictates Pafford has to respond to the county jail because it is within the EMS district. 

“I think we probably need to review the contract then and rewrite that,” District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said. “Because it really doesn’t make sense to have to pay you when OCH is transporting inmates free of charge.” 

Board Attorney Rob Roberson said reworking the contract should be doable. 

“The reality is the city cannot contract for the county, and the county cannot contract for the city,” Roberson said. “It’s just that simple.”

OCH employees were also at the meeting to express their concerns. 

“Nothing against Pafford,” OCH Director of Emergency Medical Services Michael Hunt said. “I guess they’re doing a pretty good job. I haven’t had a lot of collaboration with them.”

“But the same thing speaks for the nursing home,” Hunt said, referring to issues he has had with Pafford.

Hunt said Starkville Manor Health Care and Rehab is complaining about the new response time to emergency calls with Pafford. 

Due to OCH’s close vicinity to Starkville Manor, Hunt said OCH’s response times were quicker than Pafford’s.

“Before, they were one to two minutes,” Hunt said of the wait time with OCH. “Now they’re six to seven minutes.”

“Starkville Manor is asking us if we will respond to 911 calls, and we have to tell them, ‘no, we can’t do that because those areas are within the boundaries of the EMS district,” Hunt added.

Hunt is concerned over issues within the Pafford contract, which he said haven’t been worked out. 

“Again, I think the lack of due diligence on the city’s side of this was to not incorporate everybody that was gonna be involved and affected by this,” Hunt said. “A lack of organization is causing issues with us.”

OCH Critical Care Manager Eddie Coats brought forth a separate issue OCH had with Pafford involving the shooting at The Block Townhomes Starkville Daily News reported on this past weekend.

“We had an incident this weekend where there was a gunshot wound on South Montgomery,” Coats said. 

Pafford sent the victim by helicopter to OCH. 

“Which is fine. We have no problem with that,”  Coats said of the air transport. “But we had no advanced warning that they were coming. That’s an unsecured landing area.”

In order to secure the landing area, OCH would have to follow certain protocols. 

For example, OCH would need to call security to block off the street and the landing area would have to be surveyed to make sure there is no danger to the flight crew. 

Without proper warning, the helicopter had to be flown around until the landing area was secure.

Coats said he desired better communication in the future. 

“We have to know in advance so we can prepare,” Coats said. 

“I just feel like I’m caught in the middle,” Campanella chimed in, referring to where she needs to direct emergency calls. 

“I have four different attorneys telling me I’m supposed to do something,” Campanella added. “That’s why I’m here. To kinda get direction on what I need to do until we get whatever worked out.”

MOTION

“Attorney Roberson, I believe you said the county has the right to contract with whom they would like to contract with?” Williams asked Roberson. 

Roberson affirmed Williams' statement. 

“That’s my legal opinion,” Roberson said. “It’s both ways. We can’t tell the city what to do, and the city can’t tell us what to do either.”

Vice President and District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery made a motion which instructed 911 services to send any call from a county-owned building to the county-owned hospital, OCH, instead of Pafford EMS. 

The motion passed unanimously. 

“We discussed it as a board and that’s how we feel,” Montgomery said about the decision to direct calls to OCH. 

“OCH does not charge us for inmates,” Montgomery added. 

However, the future is still unclear. 

“There’s still a lot of grey area that needs to be worked out,” Montgomery said. 

Howard voiced his agreement with OCH concerning how the Pafford agreement was handled. 

“I think this speaks to how hastily this was put together,” Howard said. “And I think we need to, as soon as possible, go ahead and come back to the table and start some discussion with all entities that’s involved with this and try to get this hashed out.”

“I mean we’re talking life and death situations here,” Howard added. 

Montgomery voiced his opinion over how a future meeting should go.

“I think the hospital needs to be there. I think the county needs to be there. I think the city needs to be there. I think Pafford needs to be there,” Montgomery said. “All the moving parts need to come together.”

Board President and District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said he hoped all parties can work past the current sentiment. 

“It’s quite obvious tonight there’s still some strong feelings on one side of the equation from the hospital,” Trainer said. “But Pafford seemed excited to be in town, which is great. I just hope we can work out all this.”

After the board discussion, Hunt voiced his concerns again. 

“There’s not been enough planning for this,” Hunt said. “There are so many situations no one knows the answer to.”

OTHER BOARD BUSINESS

• In other county business, the board approved a motion to appeal $1.7 million for the purchase of Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Administrative Building on Lynn Lane 3-2.  Montgomery and Miller opposed the motion. 

• The board unanimously approved a motion to appoint Molly Jackson as the interim attorney over Johnny Moore’s law firm, Moore’s Law Office, due to Moore having health-related issues. 

• The board unanimously approved moving the District 3 voting precinct to Trinity Presbyterian Church located at 607 Hospital Road due technical difficulties over the previous voting precinct.

• The board unanimously approved a motion to continue services with Golden Triangle Waste Management.

• The board’s next meeting will be held on Sept. 4, and a public hearing for the county budget was set for Sept. 13 at 9 a.m.

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