Charlotte County Rescue Squad sees funding increase in budget

Published 12:02 am Friday, May 19, 2023

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Over the past year, the Charlotte County Rescue Squad (CCRS) has undergone changes in an effort to combat the many financial issues the department found itself in earlier in 2022.

As part of the county’s FY 2023-2024 budget process, the board of supervisors (BOS) increased funding to the squad by $550,000.

This budget increase comes months after repeated requests for additional funding and at times approval of such funding.

Since February 2022 just about every month rescue squad officials have addressed the BOS with issues and financial requests.

Overspending for the past five to seven years is what county officials say has put the CCRS in a financial bind.

So much, in fact, that supervisors had to appropriate over $100,000 in just two months.

In February 2022 $50,000 was approved, with another $60,000 approved in March of the same year.

The rescue squad’s lack of funds first came to light during the Feb. 14 2022 BOS meeting when former CCRS Captain Bill Mayhew addressed the board asking for $50,000 to $80,000 in additional funding.

Mayhew said that waiting on payments from Medicare and Medicaid and inflation had put the squad in a bind.

The Charlotte County Rescue Squad budget

According to documents from CCRS provided to the BOS, the squad’s 2021 operating budget was listed at $963,900.00 with over $1 million in expenses. Included in their budget was over $200,000 in a PPP Loan.

Salaries and overtime expenses were another financial impacts that faced the squad.

It was during the same meeting that Mayhew said to run three crews a day, five days a week and two crews on the weekend; CCRS spends $12,600 a week on salaries, with members working anywhere from 48 to 60 hours a week.

At one point the BOS said no additional funding when members learned that CCRS members voted to give themselves a raise.

Since April 2022, the CCRS has been making progress in clearing up its financial issues.

Sally Pyle, who has been involved in the EMS field for many years, was hired by the rescue squad to handle billing for Medicare, Medicaid and insurance.

During a work session with the BOS, Pyle presented her findings just after working with the squad for two weeks.

“Things I found wrong were calls not being consistently approved,” Pyle said. “I found 73 calls just setting on the computer being ready to be billed dating back to July.

Pyle said she found calls sent to billing without insurance information, and not all of the call sheets were being picked up from the hospital, nor had the three required signatures to bill.

According to Pyle, when it came to billing, the squad was in a good position with all calls up to date and being billed.

CCRS captain Matthew LaMotte told the BOS, “We need members. Staffing is a big issue, and surrounding counties are offering better pay and benefits.”

According to LaMotte, in talking with squad members who have left, pay was the most significant factor in them leaving.