The Grainger County Commission heard an update on the status of Emergency Medical Services in the county since the purchase of four new ambulances and software updates to iPad tablets used by emergency medical technicians.

Grainger County EMS Director Mardy Bowen addressed the situation regarding billing from a third-party company for EMS services and software upgrades with another company.

A number of records of calls have gone missing and are unable to be billed, he said.

Currently EMT’s use iPads to input information on patients as calls are made, but some of the information has not made it to the provider due to poor internet service in some county areas.

“There is only a certain percentage out of those couple of hundred (missing) calls that we actually do transports that are billable,” Bowen said. “The amount of money on that I’m estimating is $12,000. I’m still on (software company) trying to get updates as to what they can find about this. They actually sent a representative over to us, he spent two days back here in the office on the software to make it easier to use.”

Commissioner Darrell Stratton asked Bowen if it would be cost effective for EMS to do in-house billing.

“Without doing a big investigation into it, at this point, we’re probably better off (as the situation is now) because if we did in-house, we’d have a lot of catching up to do,” Bowen said. “We’d have to formulate a plan to do that, submit the paperwork to do that. If we had to hire a person to do that, (we would have to) pay benefits and a salary and have them continued education.”

Bowen said that the third-party company that is used now knows the codes in terms of treatment of care and billing.

The software company recently implemented updates to the iPads EMS is using.

“(Monday) was the first day for the software update,” Bowen said. “I don’t have any update about that because as of yet, the update hasn’t gone into effect. Once it does, we’ll know more as to where this software is going to work better on the iPads. I’m hoping that this will be more user friendly.”

“If we had more reliable internet services in some areas of Grainger County, then we probably wouldn’t have an issue,” Bowen said. “In order to do those calls, and effectively put that in, we need to do that when we get the call. If we waited until we got back to the office, we may two more calls. It’s better to keep them going as you go because they’re fresh in your mind and you’re not missing anything about that patient’s care.”

Bowen also announced that two of the new ambulances bought with a capital outlay note in November are on the road.

“We’ve actually made some remarkable ground,” Bowen said. “We’re less than a month into it and we already have two of them on the road and we have two that are ready to go. We have to have a couple of parts for the radios.”

The radio equipment out of two of the old ambulances will be installed in the other two new ambulances when these parts are delivered this week, according to Bowen.

“Once they are installed, I will submit the paperwork to the state so the ambulances can be certified,” Bowen said. “As it is right now, we have ambulances on the road, one in Rutledge and two in Bean Station.”

New technology will give Grainger County residents the ability to text an emergency call to E-911.

“The Federal Communications Commission has mandated future texting to E-911,” Director Randy Holt said. “It’s coming, we’ve already bought the upgraded equipment and it’s being installed Wednesday.”

Holt promised to keep the commission posted on the progress of the new technology and when it will be available to use.

Grading work on the new baseball and softball fields at Washburn has almost been completed.

“We’re at the mercy of the weather right now,” Parks and Rec Director Stacy Defrees said. “As soon as they get the final grading work completed, they don’t like a whole lot, they’re almost to gray. (At that time) they can do seed work and fence work. The asphalt work has been scheduled twice, but it’s been rained out. We’re trying to wait on the weather.”

The fields, long a project for the Grainger County Parks and Recreation Department, will allow separate baseball and softball fields for league play. The project was supposed to be completed Dec. 14.

Commissioners approved a resolution to declare Grainger County a Second Amendment Sanctuary County. Grainger has joined Hamblen and Jefferson, among others, in declaring as Second Amendment Sanctuary counties.

By definition, a Second Amendment Sanctuary Community, refers to states, counties, or localities in the country that have adopted laws or resolutions to prohibit or impede the enforcement of certain gun control measures perceived as violative of the Second Amendment such as universal gun background checks, high capacity magazine bans, assault weapon bans or red flag laws.