A Frankfort judge’s gavel may prove to be the death knell for TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital’s plans to operate an ambulance service in Warren County.
Administrative Law Judge Karen Woodall on Thursday granted Med Center Health’s motion for a summary judgment asking the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to dismiss the Greenview certificate of need application to establish an ambulance service.
Greenview has been trying since September 2018 to get state approval for an ambulance service that would compete with the Med Center EMS service operated by Med Center Health.
Greenview’s original certificate of need application was based on a study done by Louisville’s Pegasus Institute that indicated Warren County was underserved by its one ambulance provider. That study led to then-Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration issuing an emergency regulation that allowed Greenview to submit it under a nonsubstantive process that essentially “fast-tracks” the process and places the burden of proof on the existing ambulance provider.
After months of legal wrangling, Greenview appeared headed for a hearing using the nonsubstantive rules. A hearing was scheduled for Jan. 27-31, but Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration stepped in with an emergency regulation of its own Jan. 2 that put the hearing in doubt.
The emergency regulation released by Beshear and Acting CHFS Secretary Eric Friedlander took direct aim at the regulation issued by the Bevin administration.
A prelude to the emergency regulation states: “The previous administration declared that a public health crisis existed in counties without adequate ambulance services to treat medical emergencies with urgency and with respect to patient choice. However, there is not a lack of access or issue with patient choice.
“The formal review process is more appropriate than the nonsubstantive review process for applications to establish a Class I ground ambulance service.”
Following that emergency regulation, Med Center Health filed the motion for summary judgment that was granted Thursday. Woodall also denied a motion by Greenview asking the CHFS for summary judgment that its certificate of need application does qualify for a hearing.
The judge’s rulings in favor of Med Center Health and against Greenview were welcomed by Med Center Health’s leadership.
In a news release, Med Center Health Executive Vice President Wade Stone said: “Med Center Health appreciates the hearing officer’s adherence to the law, and we hope that Greenview will conclude, as the current cabinet has stated, that we do not have a public health crisis in Warren County and we certainly do not need another ambulance service in Warren County. We call on those at Greenview and HCA Healthcare, its parent company, to put this waste of time and resources to an end so that both hospitals can focus on providing the services that our communities actually need.”
A statement from Greenview Marketing and Communications Specialist Andria McGregor maintains the stance that Warren County has gaps in its ambulance service, but it stops short of saying what steps the hospital might take now.
“We are evaluating our options,” McGregor said. “Our steadfast focus is to take care of our patients and give them the highest care they deserve.
“TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital remains committed to providing residents with a choice in emergency services,” McGregor said. “Bowling Green is one of the fastest-growing cities in Kentucky, yet it has only one existing ambulance provider.
“This process has always been about greater access to care for all who work and live in Bowling Green. We hope to continue to work with all stakeholders to quickly address this vital need.”
Med Center EMS took over operation of the county ambulance service in 1980 and has operated with no financial support from the city of Bowling Green or Warren Fiscal Court.
Stone points out that Med Center EMS has earned the EMS Gold Award from the American Heart Association and has been recognized as an Accredited Center of Excellence by the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch.
The ambulance service has grown over the years and now operates 13 vehicles and has about 100 employees operating out of a 28,000-square-foot headquarters building on Bowling Green’s Third Avenue.