LIMA -- The Fire Department wants a piece of the emergency ambulance response business. Fire Chief Mark Heffner presented his proposal to City Council's Safety Services Committee on Tuesday, saying his firefighters would provide transport to hospitals from all motor vehicle crashes and take a third spot in the 911 rotation.
Currently MedCorp and Lima Allen County Paramedics take every other 911 ambulance call. The Fire Department wants no part of routine medical transport, such as moving a patient from a nursing home to a hospital. That function is a large part of the current ambulance providers' business.
"We do a majority of the EMS work already. We're asking permission to do the last 10 minutes of the job. The Fire Department is uniquely positioned and qualified to handle all motor vehicle accidents," Heffner said. "It would also be an opportunity to recoup some of our costs." Safety Services chairman wants public input and will set another meeting for Dec. 1. He also asked for more details from Heffner and the administration.
Council members were generally supportive of the concept, but wanted some more detail and input. Currently, officers respond to accidents within four minutes and often provide first medical care. However, they don't transport patients and so can't bill for the care. Heffner wants to soft bill insurance companies, taking whatever they would pay, and not bill patients directly. The department spends about $500,000 a year on emergency medical service. Based on crash data and estimates based on other fire departments in the area, Heffner believes the department could conservatively recoup $300,000 annually. American Township pays for five people from its EMS revenue, Heffner said. Area township fire departments pay cash for their new ambulances from EMS revenue. "St. Rita's Medical Center [which Lima Allen County Paramedics] is building a 16-bay ambulance station. Empirical evidence says this pays off and we've been missing it for 30 years," Heffner said.
The Fire Department was last in the ambulance business in the early 1980s. It ended, Heffner said, because of differences of opinion about whether the city should be involved in it. A consultant hired previously to evaluate the department suggested the activity to help recover some costs. Every new firefighter the city hires is now required to be an emergency medical technician. The department would contract with a billing agent for a percentage of the revenue and would also need a new ambulance.
Health and Safety