Nome's Public Safety Building in April 2014, where the Nome Volunteer Ambulance Department is currently housed. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM file.

Nome’s Volunteer Ambulance Department (NVAD) has a new arrangement with Norton Sound Health Corporation, a result of meetings between administration from NSHC and the City of Nome. A memorandum of agreement which could last indefinitely between the three entities was approved by the City Council Monday night.

The previous medevac contract between NSHC and the City with the NVAD expired in 2015. Since then, there has been no formal agreement between the two entities regarding the roles and responsibilities of the ambulance department. City Manager Tom Moran explains how services were provided to the community without a medevac contract in play.

“So, when the medevac contract lapsed, all of the covenants and the agreements in it also lapsed, which included the medical director, the provision of the supplies for the ambulance…,” Moran continued, “So then, we were in limbo, and Norton Sound began doing their own medevac runs, and the City then continued doing emergency services, obviously, but there was no contract in place to provide the City with remuneration above and beyond the Medicare-Like payment for that.”

Four NSHC personnel met with four City of Nome administrators in early April and negotiated a draft of a new memorandum of agreement, which includes many provisions. At one point, Moran says the agreement included NSHC providing about 20 enumerated points to the ambulance service.

“It’s the goal to have a local medical director who can issue standing orders and allow the EMTs to perform ALS services while on runs. So they (NSHC) agreed to provide the medical director, they (NSHC) agreed to provide a stipend for the upkeep of the ambulance, towards the Ambulance service, of $10,000. They (NSHC) agreed to host an annual fundraising dinner for the ambulance department,” summarized Moran.

The retired chief of the Nome Volunteer Ambulance Department, Charlie Lean, spoke out in favor of this agreement during a City Council meeting.

“I think both sides made some concessions and some generous offers, too. The compensation for a run is not as much as some of us had hoped, but on the other hand, there are all the other benefits that came through. The maintenance, the help with the billing, and when you take it all as a whole, it’s not exactly what we asked for, but it’s a good deal, and I think on both sides, it’s a good deal,” stated Lean.

Councilman Stan Anderson added, as long as the volunteers are happy and if the M.O.A. works out, then the City could save “a bunch of money” because of it.

Despite each entity not getting everything they wanted, Moran mentioned that the community of Nome benefits from the agreement.

“Both parties dug our feet into the sand and maintained the party line. The City felt that we could be paid above the Medicare-Like-Rate for our transports, which is legal to a certain extent, but the City agreed to take the Medicare-Like-Rate, which was Norton Sound’s contention all along,” Moran explained. “Norton Sound agreed to provide the City with a bunch of different services, supplies, payments above and beyond the Medicare-Like-Rate, but in a different medium.”

Going forward with this agreement, the NVAD will be led by Chief James West, who is also head of the Nome Volunteer Fire Department.

When asked if he could handle both jobs at once, West answered in the affirmative and hinted that both departments might be consolidated in the future.

“In the real world, ambulance and fire, all in one department. So with that in mind, we are going to be working towards combining both in some fashion. We’re all here to serve the community, we are doing basically the same job. The Fire Department has the tools, equipment, and manpower. The Ambulance Service has EMTs, the patient-care people, so when an accident happens, we all come together,” said West.

The approved memorandum of agreement is in effect starting May 1st, but can be altered or terminated in the future through written notice.

PDF download: Memorandum of Agreement Between NSHC and City of Nome, April 2017