By Philip Haldiman
Peoria is within months of completing phase two of its ambulance system, implementing two more full-time ambulances on a path to a more complete city-based program.
The program has also been bolstered by the department’s Low Acuity Unit, which has improved efficiency, says Emergency Medical Chief Jim Bratcher.
Last March, Peoria City Council approved $1.4 million to fund the acquisition of three ambulances — two full-time staffed vehicles and one non-staffed reserve vehicle, as well as 14 firefighters to staff the vehicles.
The Peoria Fire-Medical Department is expected to implement those vehicles by April. It will bring the city’s total to four 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week ambulances.
The city’s program is expected to be fully phased in over the next three years.
Mr. Bratcher said since the ambulance program became operational in January of 2017, the department has had 7,515 transports to-date and 3,696 transports in the last calendar year.
The ambulances have been operating out of Station 193, 8330 W. Emile Zola Ave., and Station 195, 23100 N. Lake Pleasant Pkwy.
The new ambulances will operate out of Station 191, 8065 W. Peoria Ave., and Station 192, 18500 N. 89th Ave.
“We have been very busy and very successful. We are very happy with that,” Mr. Bratcher said.
Additionally, medical billing for the ambulance program has completely moved in-house from a third party billing company.
“That transition was completed in one week and has led to increased efficiency, and most importantly, our customer service as we move forward,” he said.
To take control back from private ambulance providers and provide better medical services, the city’s ambulance service originated in March of 2016 when the council unanimously approved $1.2 million to buy the initial three ambulances and hire 14 firefighters, a billing assistant and an EMS captain.
Currently, Peoria has a contract with American Medical Response to provide a total of four full-time and two peak-time ambulances available to serve Peoria residents. The city will continue to partner with a AMR to provide ambulance services as needed.
Easing the transition has been the department’s Low Acuity Unit, which is staffed with one paramedic and one EMT, who respond to non-threating, non-injury or assistance calls.
He said the unit is capable of providing initial advanced care with a paramedic on board in case they encounter a patient who needs advanced care right away and then can be supported with additional resources.
The unit operates out of Station 192.
Mr. Bratcher said it has decreased the station’s basic life support call volume by 18 percent.
He said the fire station’s calls have gone up, but the low acuity unit has allowed the station to answer more advanced life support calls and decrease reliance on help from other emergency agencies.
“So it has done exactly what we had hoped it would do. It is filling that gap for the lower priority, less urgent calls,” Mr. Bratcher said. “So we are very happy with the success of that program.”
Emergency medical transportation
Peoria Fire-Medical owns and operates several ambulances under the license granted by the Arizona Department of Health Services Certificate of Necessity number 146.
Here are a few things to know about emergency medical transportation:
- When a person dials 911 for a medical emergency, the closest available fire truck responds, regardless of what city it represents.
- Emergency medical care is provided by Peoria fire-medical paramedics and EMTs.
- In Peoria, if emergency medical transport is necessary, you may receive a Peoria Fire-Medical ambulance or an ambulance operated by a private company.
- Currently Peoria contracts with American Medical Response for additional ambulance response.
- Peoria fire-medical does not charge city residents for its fire or emergency medical response. However, there is a charge for emergency medical transportation.
- Most insurance companies typically cover the charges for emergency medical transportation.
- Individuals who do not have insurance, or whose insurance company does not cover the complete charge, will be billed directly by either the Peoria Fire-Medical Department or the private ambulance company. No one will ever be denied medical care regardless of insurance coverage or their ability to pay.
Here are the current ambulance service rates for Peoria Fire-Medical. These rates are set and regulated by the Arizona Department of Health Services, Bureau of EMS and Trauma Services. For more information go to The Arizona Department of Health Services website: azdhs.gov/preparedness/emergency-medical-services-trauma-system/index.php
Advanced life support: $952.81
Basic life support: $848.73
Mileage charge: 19.75/mile
Standby waiting: $212.18
Separate charge for disposable supplies: As needed