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Mar 7, 2013 9:14 PM by Andy Koen

Split over ambulance service could cost patients

COLORADO SPRINGS - The City of Colorado Springs and El Paso County have split over ambulance service breaking off a 17-year relationship. In a prepared statement to the Emergency Services Agency board Wednesday, Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown said the department intends to recommend to City Council that they end their intergovernmental agreement.

The big split seems to be driven by money and control. The city wants more of both out of any new ambulance contract.

The money would come in the form of "reimbursement" payments from the ambulance provider (currently American Medical Response) to the fire department for paramedic services performed by fire fighters. Currently, AMR only reimburses the CSFD for medical supplies used.

Details of the city's request for proposal are still being drawn up, but comparisons have been made to the Aurora Fire Department which collects $997,629 in reimbursements annually from their ambulance provider Rural/Metro Corporation. A spokesperson for Aurora FD says the money is a combination of reimbursements for paramedic services, dispatch services and medical supplies.

The Pueblo Fire Department also collects reimbursement fees from their ambulance provider, AMR. However, it is unclear how much money they receive.

AMR spokesperson Tawnya Silloway says the baseline bill for patients in Pueblo is higher, at around $1,400. In Colorado Springs the baseline cost is $1,086.

Silloway says there are factors that could drive up patient costs by splitting up the ESA.

"It could very possibly cost the ambulance users, the people that take the ride in the ambulance, more due to the fact that there isn't the cost effectiveness of a regional ambulance service," Silloway said.

Neither Chief Brown or Deputy Chief Tommy Smith were available for interviews, but a spokesperson indicated during telephone conversations that the city does not intend to increase patient costs during the contracting process.

The city clearly wants more control as Councilman Merv Bennett explained a voicemail.

"When we have 85 percent of the calls happening inside the City of Colorado Springs affecting our firefighters, 76 percent of the calls affect our firefighters in a significant manner," Bennett said. "We have to have a far more significant role in the contract development that happens within the city limits of Colorado Springs."

Bennett echoed offers extended by Chief Brown in his statement to include the county or any neighboring communities in their contracting process.

County Commissioner Peggy Littleton said their offices have begun discussion with the fire districts to reconstitute the ESA without the city in order to get a separate contract for ambulance service outside the city limits.

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