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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Sin City ambulance wars spinning out of control

It will be a public relations nightmare if assertions that response times have gone prove to be true

By Arthur Hsieh

This is not a story of who is "better" at providing EMS, the public or private provider. So far, I haven't seen any data that would support an argument in either direction.

This is really an EMS system that is quickly spinning out of control. From what has been reported in the local media over the past three months, it appears that not all of the system stakeholders have been involved in a concerted effort to look at how the system is, or is not, working to the benefit of the community.

There are just under a million residents living in Las Vegas and the surrounding region. Covering the responses is correspondingly complex. Making unilateral decisions about how units are dispatched may cause effects that ripple across the system, including operation, clinical and financial issues.

It will become a public relations nightmare if the assertions that response times have increased are shown to be true. While I disagree that it should make that much of a difference (because really, it doesn't), it is one marker that evaluates the efficiency of the system.

But just what are the root issues surrounding the system?

It's probably true that municipal governments have the authority to make decisions on how their EMS systems are deployed and supported. Historically, this system has had a public and private provider operating within its jurisdiction.

It should be made clear to all parties why the system needed change, and how that change benefits the community in a meaningful, measurable way.

This battle for system control is just getting underway. What the end result will be is anyone's guess. Let's hope that patents are not unduly impacted while this goes on.

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at
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