WAUSEON - Fulton County commissioners have terminated their emergency medical services director after an internal investigation found evidence of billing problems in the department.
The amount of uncollected money and the amount the county may have to refund is believed to be significant, officials said.
Robert Hartman, director of the county's emergency medical services/emergency medical agency, was dismissed Monday after the disclosure of unprocessed bills for emergency services dating to 2006, as well as bills that had been processed but could result in the county having to refund money.
County officials said Mr. Hartman is not suspected of theft, only mismanagement.
Rod Cheney, deputy director of emergency medical agency/local emergency planning commission, has been appointed to serve as Mr. Hartman's interim replacement.
The investigation corroborated the findings of a state audit for 2007, the details of which have not been finalized, officials said.
Employees of Life Star Ambulance of Toledo, which also does medical billing and did so previously for the county, are reviewing county records to determine the extent of the financial impact, county Commissioner Joe Short said.
Many of the unprocessed bills for services such as emergency and nonemergency transportation have surpassed the time limit for reimbursement by Medicare or insurance guidelines, he said.
"There are dollars that, unfortunately, we just won't recover payment for," Mr. Short said.
In other cases, insurers who were billed improperly will need to be refunded, Mr. Short said.
The department has generated about $157,000 in revenue from medical billing this year, compared to about $579,000 for all of last year, Annie Hernandez, the county's financial coordinator, said.
The department also receives about $2 million a year in property taxes to conduct its operations, she said.
Mr. Hartman was the emergency coordinator at the Four County Career Center in Henry County before he was hired by Fulton County in 2003, Mr. Short said.
In 2006, at Mr. Hartman's suggestion, Fulton County assumed responsibility for billing from Life Star- a move that was aimed at saving money, Mr. Short said.
Mr. Short said Mr. Hartman's competence as a emergency services professional never has been questioned. Under Mr. Hartman's leadership, the county established its Advanced Life Support protocol.
"The services that were provided by that department were fantastic," Mr. Short said. "We look at leadership, accountability, and oversight. Leadership was never really in question; it was just the accountability and oversight."
Mr. Hartman's fiscal management skills began to cause concern last year. "There were questions that were raised," Mr. Short said. "There were things that did not make 100 percent sense.
"When the [state] audit happened, it confirmed our questions and that's when we brought in Life Star to confirm the records," he added.
Mr. Hartman, who was paid about $60,000 a year, said last night that he was targeted unfairly because of problems that occurred outside of his specialization.
"I didn't do the billing," Mr. Hartman said. "That wasn't my job. My job was director of the department. Another employee was responsible for the errors."
He added that his former position demanded too much responsibility from a single employee.
"I had a tremendous amount of workload, so I wasn't standing over [the employee's] shoulder, watching [the employee] the whole time," he said.
"Medical billing is a really specialized field. Without the training, I can't do it."
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