County elected officials for months have been rethinking the way Knox County handles EMS.

What they didn’t think about — at least not immediately — was how it would change the way the coroner’s office handles calls regarding the deceased.

“We recognize now that this is an issue,” county council president Harry Nolting told his fellow council members and Knox County Coroner Karen Donovan during a recent meeting at City Hall, 201 Vigo St. “And we’ll need to find a solution.”

Donovan went before council members this week with a request to purchase an old ambulance, one for use solely by the coroner’s office.

For more than 20 years — as the county contracted with Knox County EMS for emergency services and medical transports — the county coroner, too, called upon the local business to transport the deceased, whether it be to a medical examiner or a local funeral home.

“And that leaves us needing to find a vehicle so we can do it ourselves,” Donovan told the council.

The county’s EMS issues began last fall when Knox County EMS asked for an annual subsidy to carry on answering the county’s 911 calls — a practice commonplace in Indiana.

The county saw it as an opportunity to rethink EMS, so they sought proposals, both from Knox County EMS as well as others.

In the end — and after months of discussion and, at times, discord — the county, in partnership with the City of Vincennes and Bicknell, opted to enter into an agreement with Good Samaritan for the establishment of a totally new EMS system.

In the meantime, the county commissioners struck a temporary deal with Knox County EMS for service through the end of the year, but owners Steve and Christa McClure opted not to extend that contract beyond June 30.

County and city elected officials have worked alongside Good Samaritan on a scaled-back, interim agreement to see the new EMS system launch on July 1, but Donovan said the coroner’s office has been left to fend for itself.

Knox County EMS, she told the council, stopped transporting the deceased on behalf of the coroner’s office last month; she’s been relying on transports from other counties, which is expensive, or local funeral homes, when they’re available.

The county, City of Vincennes and elected officials in Bicknell just this week signed both an interim and long-term agreement for EMS with Good Samaritan — but that agreement, county officials confirmed this week, does not include the transport of the deceased from accident or death scenes.

“So that’s something we’re going to have to handle through the coroner’s office,” Nolting said.

The county approved the purchase of a used ambulance this week, but Nolting said the council needs to completely rethink the way this type of service is handled, either by transferring it to the county coroner’s office permanently or in, possibly, adding it to Good Samaritan’s contract later.

Regardless, it will cost more money.

Nolting directed council members Rich Chattin and Dan Reitmeyer to sit down with Donovan in the coming weeks and come up with a way forward, something beyond the purchase of an old ambulance.

“We need to take a look at our budget and our needs,” he said. “The committee needs to do that, then come up with a recommendation to the whole council.”

“This is a new ball game,” he said.

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