by Pam Zubeck
After running emergency transport on medical calls for several years without a license, the Colorado Springs Fire Department won approval today from El Paso County commissioners for licenses for two squad vehicles.
We wrote about the city's squad fleet here.
Commissioner Sallie Clark quizzed firefighter and paramedic Lt. John Aker, asking if the city's applications for licenses signals plans to expand its transport operation. Aker said no.
He said the squads transport in two circumstances: (1) if a firefighter becomes injured on a fire, and (2) if the county's emergency ambulance contractor, American Medical Response, doesn't have any vehicles available, which is commonly called Level Zero.
When asked, Aker said the city won't bill for its transport services.
Clark also raised questions about the city's plan to wrest $2.4 million from AMR and whether that might jeopardize the contract, which requires AMR to respond countywide without paying a franchise fee of that nature, although AMR does pay at least $200,000 annually for administrative costs. Clark is concerned because if the area-wide contract falls apart due to the city's monetary demands of AMR, the county would be hard-pressed to find a contractor willing to service only the county's low volume of calls.
Springs Fire Deputy Chief Tommy Smith said Fire Chief Rich Brown will present a overview of negotiations to the multi-jurisdictional Emergency Services Agency, which administers the ambulance contract, at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Pikes Peak Regional Development Center, 2880 International Circle.
Clark can't attend that meeting so she sent the following message to ESA board members:
I will unfortunately be unable to attend the meeting on Wednesday, so would like to pass on a few thoughts.
The purpose of the ESA was to have a uniform fee based and privatized system that included accountability and public safety coordination to serve ALL of El Paso County at a fair pricing to citizens and at no additional subsidy to the fire districts, departments and County. I am increasingly uncomfortable about the impression that individual entities are negotiating in private with the contractor outside of our normal and public hearing process. I have heard that CS may ask for an extension of the contract renewal for several months to continue their negotiations. If at the end of their negotiations, no resolution is achieved, then it puts all the other agencies in a position of a short timeline. What will kicking the can down the road get us in terms of continuity of service?
If the city desires to negotiate a franchise fee to help pay for health clinics at fire stations (this is what I've heard) then that cost would be passed on to ambulance rates and city residents. How would that affect rates to city residents and what would that increased cost be to ambulance transport rates? To other parts of the county? How would insurance reimbursements be impacted and would the difference be covered or passed on to the patient?
How do negotiations with individual fire districts/departments on separate franchise agreements with the contractor improve our system of coordination?
Do we want to encourage individual fire districts and departments to enter into side negotiations (in between contracts) that may impact the rates to all El Paso County citizens on ambulance transport?
If CS wants to provide a government based transport business, then shouldn't we as a community have that discussion to weigh the cost to taxpayers and potential impact on both city and county residents?
If we do not renew the contract and open up a new RFP process, what is our timeline and the cost to the ESA for issuing the new RFP? Does this leave the smaller districts and the county at a disadvantage to renegotiate?
I have heard from several CS council members a comparison to Aurora and the $1 million franchise fee the city receives through their contract. If this is being used as a comparison, how do transport rates compare to the ESA's and what is their service area and call volume? How does Arapahoe County, its other municipalities and fire districts provide ambulance service and what are those rates and service parameters? If we are going to compare apples to apples, we should have access to this information.
Thanks for allowing me to comment in advance of the meeting. Please feel free to contact me at 6515030 if anyone has questions regarding my comments. In closing, our system seems to be working well and I'm unclear as to what we're trying to fix.