A former employee of Mercer County Emergency Medical Services complained about the company to both the Harrodsburg City Commission and to the Mercer County Fiscal Court this week. City and county officials—as well as Mercer County EMS’s new owner—are asking for the public’s patience while they move forward.
“Something’s got to be changed,” said Paul Gray, who formerly worked for Mercer County EMS, which officially changed hands at the beginning of October. “There are a number of issues.”
Gray, who was born and raised in Mercer County but no longer lives in Mercer County, said local hospitals were irate at the situation at Mercer County EMS, which he said was one of the only privately owned EMS providers in the state.
“There is no accountability for EMS,” he said at Monday’s meeting of the Harrodsburg City Commission. “I ask that you guys look over this.”
Gray said the city or county could take over 911 operations. Both Mayor Sam Carr and Mercer County Judge-Executive Sarah Steele said it was not as simple as pushing a switch.
Carr, Steele and Stacey Maynard, the city’s chief administrative officer, met with the new owner to discuss potential issues with the transfer. Both Carr and Steele said they would like to see changes in the contract the city and county have with Mercer County EMS, including termination of services. They would also like more detailed reporting from the company, including transport times, as well as monthly meetings with Mercer EMS.
“No one’s life is in jeopardy because 911 doesn’t show up,” Mayor Carr said Monday. Whatever issues there may be at Mercer County EMS need to be fixed going forward, the mayor said.
“Public safety cannot be compromised,” Carr said.
Paul Parks, who owned Mercer County EMS for 33 years, has sold the company to Patrick Meko, who took over at the beginning of the month.
“Why are we just now hearing about it?” asked Commissioner Isham.
“I could only take care of me,” Gray said.
He said he had no problem with the past administration or with the new owner, but Gray objected to the continued presence of one employee who remains with Mercer County EMS after the sale.
“You’ve got to change things,” Paul Gray said. “If you get rid of one person who’s been leading the pack, you need to get rid of the other person who’s been leading the pack.”
Officials say Meko, the owner of Raintree Health, which operates Mercer County EMS, has been meeting with all the stakeholders.
Asked for comment, the new owner, Patrick Meko, said, “We’re moving forward for Mercer County.”
Gray said Meko’s plan to move forward looks promising, but he said, “You can’t move forward if you have personnel that is part of the problem.”
“To a lot of people, I look like an angry employee,” said Gray, who denied he was angry. “God has opened another door for me.”
Gray said there is nothing to hold Mercer County EMS accountable.
“It needs a thorough investigation,” he said at the fiscal court hearing Tuesday. “EMS should be run by county and city governments.”
Paul Parks, the former owner of Mercer EMS, pushed back against the suggestion that the company had not been held accountable. He noted they had been funded, in part, by financial contributions from the county, Harrodsburg and the City of Burgin.
“Anyone who had a complaint could come to any of these bodies,” Parks said.He said the employees who remain with the company, “will work as hard for him as they did for me.”
Parks praised the new owner. “Patrick has a vision,” he said. “He’s very business minded. He’s very eager.”
Judge Steele said having the city and county take over medical services at this moment “would be worse than working with a new company.”
“We don’t have funding in place,” she said.
Steele asked community members to contact her with any concerns they may have about the situation. She thanked Gray for his bringing his concerns before the fiscal court and said they would take them under advisement.
“I thank you for bringing some of that to light,” Steel said.
One issue that predates the change in ownership is cooperation across county borders, with some residents along the border complaining about delays in service because of confusion over which county should respond. Steele said they need to increase cooperation between the counties through formalized agreements. She said Boyle County handled a run in Mercer County this week.
“We need to enact those sorts of things,” Steele said. The judge said they are reaching out to other counties that have similar agreements.
“We are not the only county that does not run EMS,” Steele said.
She praised Meko for meeting with stakeholders—including officials at James Haggin Ephraim McDowell Hospital—and trying to address their concerns.
“I see him trying to get things in place to make a change,” she said. Steele noted this was the first EMS company Meko has run, although he was in health care before purchasing Mercer EMS. “That gives me a lot of hope.”