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Hudson's EMS director predicts significant changes to department, industry over next five years

By M.A. Ferguson-Rich correspondent

HUDSON: The city's Emergancy Medical Service Director sees change coming.

In the future, emergency medical services will "enter the medical industry, not just provide transportation," said Bruce Graham, EMS director for Hudson who gave a report to City Council on Tuesday.

He predicts that the services provided by EMS will change more in the next five years, than in the prior 50. Economic forces are driving the adjustment.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is "changing the way the game is played" according to Graham, and reduced hospitalizations are the goal.

Graham is concerned about the new law's potential limitations regarding payment for hospitalizations and those limitations extending to EMS as well.

According to the law, hospitals may be fined if there are too many readmissions within 30 days for complications after a patient's originally admission. Graham is unsure if EMS will receive payment for the readmissions by ambulance within that time period.

Currently, Medicaid only provides around $120 for an EMS transport, when the actual cost in Hudson is around $800, he said.

Pilot programs are underway in three states where EMS personnel are providing "community paramedicine," which he describes as non-emergency services. Those services include blood pressure monitoring, and assistance with medical equipment and medication.

Currently, Hudson EMS is only paid if a patient is actually transported. Graham describes Hudson EMS as largely a volunteer organization.

Several council members expressed concern that providing community paramedicine might necessitate a full-time, paid workforce.

Graham says that continued use of volunteers is essential to Hudson's EMS program, although he acknowledges that getting volunteers to sacrifice paid work and family time in order to man the squad is challenging.

He said his department, however, is committed to the city's strategic plan to "improve efficiency, effectiveness, quality and availability of service."

Council member William Wooldredge requested that Graham "keep us up to speed," as it was clear that "major winds are blowing."