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Seton proposes EMS changes in Caldwell County

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TWC News: Seton proposes EMS changes in Caldwell County
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A controversial plan is up for debate to change Emergency Medical Service providers in Lockhart and Caldwell County. The plan spurred a heated meeting between commissioner's court and city council Thursday.

The Lockhart-Caldwell County Emergency Medical Service currently covers about two-thirds of Caldwell County. The City of Lockhart and Caldwell County split the cost of that service. Seton covers the southern third of the county and operates a hospital in Luling, the only hospital in Caldwell County.

Under a current proposal from Seton Healthcare, it would take over EMS in all of Caldwell County and Lockhart. They would also leverage federal funding and potentially save the city and county hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The city received the proposal this week and has to make a decision in a matter of days. Lockhart Mayor Lew White says the timing was less than ideal.

"It could not have been worse with the tax rate deadline," he said.

The possibility of making a rush decision to change EMS providers was enough to pack city hall Thursday for a joint council and commissioners meeting.

"The decision to replace a dedicated, first-rate EMS service should not be taken lightly and most certainly should not be made on a last-minute whim to meet budget deadlines," EMS Director Aaron Langford said.

Caldwell County Judge Tom Bonn championed the proposal saying it was their fiduciary responsibility to save tax payers money.

"I don't see that we're doing our job by, I use the expression, kicking the can down the road," he said.

The plan was eventually stalled over concerns of not seeking competing proposals and the possibility of attaining savings without rushing into a decision. Representatives from neighboring health care providers say they want to take part in the discussion.

"We just want to be involved in the conversation. We think that this is such an important topic but it deserves that chance," Central Texas Medical Center Sam Huenergardt said.

For now, the Lockhart-Caldwell County EMS will continue as they have for years, but both the city and the county are anxious to find savings. Officials from both Caldwell County and Lockhart say they will begin discussions on how EMS services can be improved to take advantage of federal programs to save taxpayer money.

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