Archive | November, 2010

Colorado rural ambulance services in a state of emergency

Posted on 29 November 2010 by wyoskibum

FORT MORGAN, CO — When the buzzer sounds in the Morgan County ambulance station, it’s another chance to save a life in the rural farm and ranch community.

It’s also another chance to lose some serious money.

The slip-and-fall call from a 72-year-old woman on this blustery November day will produce a vital rescue from a lifeline service in an aging county.

It will also likely be a steep write-off for the county’s enterprise fund, which gets back only 7 cents on a dollar billed for its numerous Medicaid runs. For the many other uninsured patients, the bills often return zero.

Morgan County Ambulance Service has been dipping into a reserve fund every year to cover losses but now faces a budget crisis hittingmany rural ambulance services in Colorado.

The Ambulance Service gets no tax revenue from the county, relying solely on its billing to patients. Other counties from Summit to Bent to Logan have searched for more permanent funding solutions to preserve their communities’ links to emergency health care.

“We’re acutely aware that rural areas will be struggling more and more,” said Randy Kuykendall, chief of trauma services for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Kuykendall is consulting with multiple counties about how to preserve ambulance companies and trying to free up state grants for equipment and other one-time costs. “At the end of the day, it comes down to local decisions about what level of service they want to maintain,” he said.

Morgan County ambulance director Bob Walter and paramedic Joe King choose their safer and cheaper converted Chevy Suburban ambulance for the slip-and-fall call and many other runs. Walter pioneered full-service SUV ambulances for this part of Colorado in one of his many penny-pinching efforts to preserve the endangered ambulance company.

They get blown around less than the regular boxy ambulances, can perform all life-saving functions for one patient and save significant money on the Morgan County service’s average of six trips a day.

“We’re out of ideas, and we’re out of cuts,” Walter said. “In a year, we’re out of funding.”

Services search for funds

Some of the ambulance revenue losses across Colorado come as the result of good news.

When state highway officials straightened out two dangerous curves on Interstate 76, traffic accidents dropped from the No. 1 source of Morgan County ambulance calls to No. 4. While trauma workers are happy to forgo accident patients, the reality is an interstate driver is more likely to have insurance to pay an ambulance fee than a poor county resident.

When a hospital opened in Summit County in 2005, Summit County Ambulance Service immediately lost lucrative runs from ski resorts to orthopedic centers in Vail and Denver.

With no backup from government coffers, places like Summit have to get creative to find money.

“I have patients that are paying $20 a month for five years,” said Summit County ambulance director Marc Burdick. “And we will absolutely accept that if they get on a payment plan with us.”

County efforts to balance declining ambulance budgets range from “subscriptions” to combing classified auto ads.

• Morgan County’s service sold $17,500 in memberships last year. Ambulances will pick up everyone, of course, but if the patient is a paid subscriber, large discounts apply.

Walter closed one ambulance site in Wiggins and merged it with the Wiggins fire department to save costs. He wants Morgan County to consider a dedicated ambulance tax or to seek contributions through local utility bill checkoffs as a Texas district has done. The county currently loses $10,000 to $12,000 a month.

• Logan County has one of the few private rural services left, but the owner is willing to get bought out to stop his losses. Doug Smith’s contract with Logan County hasn’t gone up for six years, while the aging farm population requires more and more runs.

“People over 60 need about 20 ambulance runs a month per 1,000 population,” Smith said. “Under 30 years old, it’s about one run a month.”

As in Morgan County, frequent runs to higher-level medical centers in Denver or Fort Collins can tie up an ambulance for four hours.

“On a collision course”

State officials are consulting with Logan County on possible solutions, including a tax authority and buyout of Smith’s Life Care ambulance.

“We’re on a collision course with disaster if we don’t do something,” Smith said.

• Summit County will consider a dedicated property tax and other potential revenue sources to support the $3.9 million annual ambulance cost. Burdick said the county averages higher reimbursement from patients because of vacationers with private insurance but still takes in only 68 cents of every dollar billed.

Summit County has cut the number of ambulances on the road during winter months to save money. It also partners with Flight for Life to provide a critical-care ambulance unit when weather makes mountain flights impossible.

• Transcare, a private ambulance provider in western and southeastern Colorado, specializes in hospital-to-hospital transport. Two hospitals subsidize Transcare’s poor-paying Medicare and Medicaid runs, said chief executive Allen Hughes.

Hughes sympathizes with public ambulances that take all 911 calls, and may or may not get reimbursed for a run. His ambulances serve as backup-only for public 911 services. Transcare keeps costs down with used equipment.

“I wait until a fire department has a 5-year-old ambulance with 50,000 miles on it, for $20,000, instead of buying a new one for $120,000,” Hughes said.

Considering all options

Some local officials ask ambulance services whether they could move to a volunteer system. Recruiting reliable volunteers, though, proves more challenging each year, with busier family lives and a tough economy forcing workers to focus on their jobs.

“We get lots of four-hour calls,” said Morgan County paramedic King. “It’s hard to talk your boss into letting you leave for half a day.”

Ambulance companies will consider linking themselves to a local property-tax mill levy, as many fire districts do. Those revenues are endangered, though, by falling property values in the recession. Many counties are bracing for large budget hits after their next valuation cycle.

“It’s a rough time to go out and ask folks to raise taxes,” said Summit County manager Gary Martinez.

Still, Martinez said, the county is committed to emergency services for both residents and visitors.

“It’s vital we provide excellent services for the guests who come to Summit,” he said. “It’s important on a personal level as well as a business level.”

Morgan County and other counties, Walter said, will have to ponder in the coming months what service they expect at the next crisis.

Do you want an ambulance, Walter asked, “that will bring the emergency room to you? Or one that will just give you a ride to the emergency room?”


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Ambulance Flips, Traps Crew On Icy Road In Fayette County

Posted on 29 November 2010 by wyoskibum

WHARTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Icy roads caused an ambulance to overturn and trap two crew members inside in Fayette County on Saturday morning, emergency responders said.

The driver and another crew member became trapped inside their Markleysburg ambulance when it flipped over on Route 40 in Wharton Township. Both were injured and were taken to Uniontown Hospital.

Their names and conditions have not yet been released.


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Idling ambulance spews exhaust into Main Street apartment

Posted on 29 November 2010 by wyoskibum

PARK CITY, UT – Someone called the Park City Police Department to Main Street on Nov. 20 claiming that the exhaust from a Park City Fire District ambulance was sickening people.

The Police Department received the call at 7:13 p.m. from someone on the 400 block of Main Street, situated midway up the street. The person told police dispatchers an ambulance had been idling for more than an hour, according to public police logs. The people who were breathing in the exhaust were in an apartment, the person told the police.

Mark Billmire, a battalion chief with the fire district, was briefed on the episode, saying a fire engine and an ambulance were called to the immediate area after someone reported a downed power line on Park Avenue between 4th Street and 5th Street.

The ambulance driver parked the vehicle at the intersection of Main Street and 5th Street to block vehicles from driving on 5th Street as workers were summoned to handle the power line. Billmire said the Rocky Mountain Power arrived in an hour.

Billmire said the ambulance idled while the crew waited for the Rocky Mountain Power workers. The fire district also received a complaint about the exhaust. The driver moved the ambulance away from the apartment once the authorities were notified, he said.

According to Billmire, the fire district idles the engines of fire trucks and ambulances if they are called out in cold weather. The water and other fluids inside the engine of the fire truck must be kept from freezing, he said.

Medical supplies stored in ambulances could also freeze in the cold weather if the engine was turned off, Billmire said as he described the importance of keeping the engine running.

Idling vehicles have long concerned City Hall, and the Park City Council in late 2009 passed a nonbinding resolution encouraging people not to leave their vehicles running. Approximately 30 signs have been posted informing people of the anti-idling push. Emergency vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances are exempt from the resolution.

The City Council on Dec. 2 is tentatively scheduled to begin considering a law prohibiting idling. The law also would exempt emergency vehicles, said Diane Foster, who manages City Hall’s environmental programs.


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Darien EMS-Post 53 dedicates three new ambulances

Posted on 26 November 2010 by wyoskibum

DARIEN, CT – On Sunday, Oct. 24, Darien EMS-Post 53 held a dedication for the three new ambulances which were donated by three Darien families. In addition to honoring these families, the day also marked the celebration of the 40th anniversary of service to the town of Darien by Darien EMS-Post 53.

Darien EMS-Post 53 historically has relied on the generosity of local families for major purchases such as new ambulances. Two of the honored families, the family of the late Sir Dennis Weatherstone and the family of the late William Ziegler, have given a total of four ambulances while the third family, the family of the late Harold McGraw, Jr., donated their first ambulance to Darien EMS-Post 53.

Lady Marion Weatherstone led the family delegation. Rick Weatherstone, son of Dennis and Marion Weatherstone and fire chief of the Darien Fire Department, also attended the dedication as did his sister, Hazel Weatherstone Capella and her husband, Steve Capella.

Cynthia Ziegler Brighton, daughter of William Ziegler, donated their latest ambulance and the family was represented by her son, Whit Brighton and family friend Marcia Cleary.

The McGraw family was represented by the children of Harold McGraw, Jr., Suzanne McGraw, Robert McGraw and Nancy McGraw, wife of Terry (Harold III) McGraw.

Grant Nelson, president of Post 53 and a senior at Darien High School, welcomed the donor families and other guests at the dedication. He expressed gratitude from the young adult volunteers at Post 53 for the generosity of the donor families.

“Without the support of people like the Weatherstone, Ziegler and McGraw families, Post 53 would be unable to perform the highest level emergency medical care to the town of Darien,” Nelson said. “Post 53 is almost entirely reliant on private donations for its operational expense.”

Ron Hammer, director of Post 53, added his thanks by commending these families for their support of Darien EMS.

“The fact that we have families in the town of Darien who step up to support our organization at this level is tremendous,” Hammer said.

In addition, Mike Murray, chairman of the Board of Directors of Darien EMS-Post 53, thanked the donor families on behalf of the Board.

“We are honored that Darien EMS-Post 53 receives the support of these outstanding families,” Murray said.

Adding their congratulations to Darien EMS-Post 53 on its 40th year of service to the town were First Selectman Dave Campbell and State Rep. Terrie Wood. Wood delivered a proclamation to Post 53 for its 40 years of dedicated service to the Town of Darien and thanked the ambulance donors on behalf of the community for their support of Darien EMS-Post 53.

The three new ambulances bring to Darien the very latest technology in emergency vehicles. They are gasoline-powered, providing a quieter, more efficient ride. The ambulance is also longer, so the space in the back will accommodate more flexibility in patient care. They are equipped with an onboard computer, called a Mobile Data Terminal, which allows the ambulance driver and EMT to quickly gain access to dispatch information. Half of the funding for these computers was provided by the Darien Technology and Community Foundation.

The ambulances were officially “christened” by the three families with saline solution from three IV bags


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Woman Dead, Several Injured in Ga. Ambulance Crash

Posted on 26 November 2010 by wyoskibum

ATLANTA (AP) One woman was killed and several people were injured when a car crashed into an ambulance in Henry Country.

Police said the accident happened around 6 p.m. Friday when a Chevrolet Monte Carlo turned onto Highway 81 and struck an ambulance.

A woman in the car died, and the driver and a child in the vehicle were injured. Police said the driver will likely face charges.

Several emergency workers and passengers in the ambulance were also hurt. The ambulance was not responding to an emergency and its emergency lights and sirens were off.


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EMT certification of chief suspended

Posted on 26 November 2010 by wyoskibum

GLOUCESTER TWP. — State officials have suspended the certification of the local EMS chief, who is accused of driving drunk to the scene of a police standoff.

Thomas Eden Sr. must surrender his EMT-Basic certification as a result of charges brought after the Oct. 28 incident, according to the state Department of Health and Senior Services. The indefinite suspension takes effect immediately, the agency said in a letter to Eden on Tuesday.

“Because of the seriousness of the crime with which you have been charged, the Department finds that your continued certification (represents) an immediate and serious threat to the health, safety and welfare of the public,” the letter said.

The incident remains under investigation by the state Office of Emergency Medical Services, the letter added.

Eden could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Eden, chief of the Gloucester Township EMS Alliance, was arrested after he drove a marked EMS vehicle to a crime scene in the 2800 block of Erial Road. He had been asked to provide on-scene assistance during a barricade situation with a man accused of assault and arson.

Police suspected Eden was intoxicated and he failed sobriety tests, authorities said. The EMS chief then was charged with driving while intoxicated and with being under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance.

The standoff ended without incident when the man surrendered.

The Alliance is a nonprofit organization that provides emergency services to the township. Eden was removed from its leadership after his arrest.


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3-year-old calls 911, saves mom’s life

Posted on 26 November 2010 by wyoskibum

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.  — A 3-year-old girl is being hailed as a hero after she called 911 when her mother collapsed last Sunday.

“My mommy’s stuck on the floor,” young Sereniti Dixon can be heard telling the 911 operator who picked up on the other end.

Sereniti stayed on the line and even repeated herself several times.

The EMS operator was able to trace the call to the girl’s house and dispatched paramedics.

When the paramedics arrived, Sereniti opened the door to the house to let them in.

They found Sereniti’s mother, Nikkia Miller, on the floor inside the home.

“I thank God that she had enough courage to call 911, because something could have really happened,” Miller said. “I could have been lying here dead, because they said I wasn’t breathing well at all.”

Miller said she had been feeling ill for several days before the episode.

Paramedic Matt Williams praised the little girl for her courage.

“She was there and able to help and assist,” Williams said. “(She) opened the door, let us come in and talk to mom. She did a great job.”

Miller said her daughter learned about the 911 system at her day care.

“I just told her thank you, gave her a big kiss and told her she’s my hero,” Miller said.


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1 Charged After Objects Strike Police Car, Ambulance In Moon Township

Posted on 26 November 2010 by wyoskibum

MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Police are trying to figure out what damaged a police car and an ambulance in Moon Township late Tuesday night.Police have charged Ryan McCleary, of Evans City, in connection with the incidents, which happened shortly before midnight along Broadhead Road.Police said a passing ambulance was hit by an object, and then a passing police car was also struck, shattering the passenger side window.Police said at first, the object was believed to be a bullet, but investigators didn’t find one.Police said they went into the home where they think the objects came from and took four people into custody.A search warrant was later executed and police found a 12-gauge shotgun, .22-caliber rifle, BB rifle and two BB pistols.McCleary is charged with reckless endangerment and aggravated assault, among other charges.


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Ambulance Crew Delivers Baby On Highway

Posted on 26 November 2010 by wyoskibum

BUSHKILL TWP., Pa. — Most new babies around here come into the world at a hospital. But one little boy made his debut at mile marker 13.

Emergency crews from Bushkill Township and Plainfield Township got there just in the nick of time. It wasn’t supposed to happen that way, of course. Mom and dad live in Monroe County. They were on the way to St. Luke’s Hospital in Fountain Hill, Lehigh County.  They didn’t quite make it. They had to pull over on Route 33 in Bushkill Township, Northampton County.

That’s when emergency crews took over. “We waited until her worst contraction was over, got her on a stretcher, got her into our ambulance,” said Brenda Laudenbach. “And as soon as we got her in the ambulance, she delivered a baby boy. Eventually, mom and baby were taken to Easton Hospital. We’re told they’re doing fine.


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Woman killed after car-ambulance crash

Posted on 26 November 2010 by wyoskibum

FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz. (AP) – A head-on crash between an ambulance and a car in Fountain Hills has left a woman dead and two medical personnel injured

The Arizona Department of Public Safety says the female driver of the car was driving in the wrong direction and was killed in the accident Tuesday night. Her name is being withheld until relatives are notified.

DPS officials say the Lifestar ambulance was on its way back to Payson when the crash occured about 8 p.m. Tuesday on State Route 87, also known as the Beeline Highway.

The ambulance driver and a medic were the only occupants of the Lifestar vehicle. They were taken to a Scottsdale hospital with non life-threatening neck and back injuries.


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Woman Pleads Guilty To EMS Council Theft

Posted on 26 November 2010 by wyoskibum

ABINGDON, Va. — An Abingdon woman pleaded guilty in federal court to taking more than $200,000 from the Southwest Virginia Emergency Management Services Council.

40-year-old Kathy Dishman White was charged with bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

She was employed by the council as an administrative assistant in 2005 and U.S. Attorney Zachary Lee says she began using their credit card to withdraw cash in 2006.

White faces up to 32 years in prison. She’s already agreed to pay the money back and forfeit what she spent the money on, which includes a house on South Holston Lake, a jetski and a Toyota Tundra truck.

She’ll be sentenced on March 7.


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6 injured in wreck involving ambulance

Posted on 08 November 2010 by wyoskibum

OAKWOOD, GA – Six people were injured Sunday night when a Hall County ambulance, on an emergency call, rear-ended a car that suddenly stopped in front of it on Mundy Mill Road, pushing it into oncoming traffic.

Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell sayd the ambulance was enroute to a house fire on Apache Circle in El Rancho Estates (see separate story) at the time of the accident, around 6 p.m.

Kimbrell says the ambulance was running with its emergency lights and siren in operation at the time of the accident just west of the Oakwood Wal-Mart.

He says the six people who were injured were not wearing their seatbelts.


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Rural/Metro eyes efficiencies after acquisition of Pridemark

Posted on 08 November 2010 by wyoskibum

AURORA, CO -  Rural/Metro Ambulance has acquired Arvada’s Pridemark Paramedic Services in a move that makes Rural/Metro one of the biggest ambulance companies in the metro area.

According to Rural/Metro, the acquisition, which was finalized last month, roughly doubles the size of the company’s metro-area staff, bringing it to more than 400 people.

Terms of the deal were not announced, but Rural/Metro said in a statement the company expected it to bring in about $12 million in new revenue.

Rural/Metro has been Aurora’s primary ambulance provider since 1998 and also serves Littleton, Highlands Ranch and Sheridan. The Arizona-based company also provides ambulance services in 19 other states.

Pridemark started in 1997 in Arvada with 10 employees, according to the company’s website, and has grown steadily since.

David Patterson, division general manager at Rural/Metro, said with the addition of Pridemark — which serves much of the northwest metro area — Rural/Metro is likely the biggest ambulance provider in the area in terms of staff, number of ambulances and number of calls.

Patterson said acquiring Pridemark made geographic sense for Rural/Metro.

The cities Rural/Metro serves locally are primarily on the south and east sides of Denver, but Pridemark’s cities — which include Boulder, Arvada, Edgewater, Fairmount and Wheat Ridge — are on the north and west sides on Denver.

“It really made a lot sense,” Patterson said.

Michael P. DiMino, president and CEO of Rural/Metro, echoed that in the statement announcing the acquisition.

“Our acquisition of Pridemark’s operations represents an exceptional and logical opportunity for strategic expansion in a contiguous operating market,” he said. “We are very excited to execute on this component of our growth model and look forward to exploring similar opportunities in the future.”

The added markets in the northwest suburbs are expected to add about 38,000 transports each year for Rural/Metro.

“Through the integration of our current business in Aurora and metro-Denver and the Pridemark operations in neighboring Boulder County, we will standardize billing and technology systems, leverage operating practices and efficiencies, and drive the brand excellence that Rural/Metro customers have come to know,” DiMino said.

Beyond the geographic benefits of the acquisition, Patterson said the company expects it will save money when it comes to materials because the company can now purchase items in higher quantities than Pridemark could before.

“There are some opportunities for efficiencies from a budgetary perspective just because of economies of scale,” he said.

Mike Donner, Pridemark president and cofounder, said in the statement that the company was excited about the change.

“We are very much looking forward to the integration of our services with Rural/Metro’s operations in Colorado, and we are especially pleased to join an organization that places a priority on clinical care excellence and exceptional customer service,” he said.

Mark Sanko, a member of Pridemark’s board of directors, said in the statement that he too was excited about the move.

“We are very pleased to partner with Rural/Metro in this transaction and are comforted in knowing that our employees will be working for the finest ambulance company in the nation,” he said.

While Pridemark’s staff now works for Rural/Metro, they and Pridemark’s fleet of ambulances will continue to operate under the Pridemark name and logo, Patterson said. There are no immediate plans to drop the Pridemark name, he said.

“It’s certainly not on the short-term radar,” Patterson said. “They have built a great brand and goodwill with the communities that they serve.”

Patterson said there won’t be any changes to senior staff of either company as a result of the acquisition. He said he doesn’t expect patients or local fire departments and hospitals to notice much of a difference from the acquisition in terms of Rural/Metro’s service.


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Crash with city ambulance sends one to Columbus hospital

Posted on 08 November 2010 by wyoskibum

CHILLICOTHE, OH — A man was flown to Columbus after crashing with a Chillicothe ambulance this afternoon.

The ambulance was pulling out of Station 3 on East Main Street to respond to a call when an eastbound car, driven by Tracey Karshner, struck it about 12:21 p.m., according to information from Chillicothe Police Chief Roger Moore and Chillicothe Fire Department Lt. Frank Woods.

Karshner was first taken to Adena Regional Medical Center and then onto a Columbus hospital with an arterial bleed from a facial cut, Moore said.

The three fire department employees, Lt. Dean Bethel, Donald Zindren and Aaron Knotts, also were taken to Adena where they were treated and released, Moore said.

Chillicothe Police are continuing to investigate the crash, but an initial report from the crash reconstructionist indicates Karshner’s speed likely was the determining factor in the crash, Moore said.

The ambulance sustained extensive front-end damage, Moore said.


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