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By Todd Epp South Dakota Broadcasters Association

Hospital ground transfer bill passes through House

PIERRE, S.D. (SDBA) — Supporters say a bill passed today (Tuesday) by the House will speed up the transportation of emergency patients when an air ambulance cannot fly because of weather or mechanical reasons.
Opponents say HB1097 could harm already struggling local ambulance services, many of which are crewed by volunteers.
The House went with speed over local ambulance crews in some circumstances and passed the measure 57 to 11.
Republican Rep. Ernie Otten from Tea, the bill’s sponsor, said under the current law, an emergency patient can wait an hour or more if the air ambulance service–usually part of a hospital–cannot make the flight. Then, the local ambulance service can make the run, but it takes time to assemble the crew for the transport.
Currently, an air ambulance’s ground vehicle can only transport the patient to and from the hospital to the airport.
Otten called the bill a compromise with the local ground ambulance services.
However, Democratic Rep. Eric Emery from Rosebud, a paramedic, said the bill was not really a compromise. He offered an amendment that would define a hospital air ambulance service.
Otten called the proposed amendment “unfriendly” and “disingenuous.”
The motion to amend failed 18 to 50.
Republican Rep. Tina Mulally from Rapid City asked Otten if the bill would allow the air ambulance service to charge the patient for a helicopter flight if the hospital had to transport the patient in a ground ambulance.
“You’re going down the rabbit hole,” Otten replied. “The only thing down that rabbit hole is Alice.” He said the bill did not address billing.
Mulally said maybe it should.
“Sometimes a fox has to follow the rabbit down the hole,” Mulally said. “I don’t want to be charged for a flight.”
Republican Rep. Tony Venhuizen said he couldn’t believe how much needless regulation the current system has and that the bill was a first step in fixing the system.
“It’s crazy to me how overregulated this particular little part of the health care system is,” Venhuizen said. “The only thing I don’t like about this bill is it doesn’t go far enough.”
HB1097 passed 57 to 11 and heads to a Senate committee.

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