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N.Y. city officials expect ambulance revenue to top over $1M

Lockport officials project $1.18M in ambulance billing revenue by the end of 2023


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By Benjamin Joe
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

LOCKPORT, N.Y. — A report given to the Common Council last week shows ambulance service by Lockport Fire Department should generate $1.18 million in revenue by the end of the year.

As of Aug. 31, the city had billed more than $1 million to private insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid, and collected approximately $240,000. Finance Director Tim Russo projected that billings for the year will add up to $1.74 million and 60%, $1.18 million, will be paid by the end of December. The other 40% should be received by March 1, although some of it may be tied up in debt collection, he said.

On the spending side, ambulance service operating costs from Feb. 14 through Aug. 31 added up to $670,000. Approximately $225,000 of that is startup / one-time equipment costs, including $56,000 for a used ambulance, Russo said.

Recurring expenditures include medical supplies, fuel and the pay and fringe benefits of a part-time administrative billing coordinator in the fire department. The coordinator works in conjunction with MedEx Billing Inc., an ambulance billing company, and will receive $24,000 in wages and $50,000 in benefits annually.

Also on the spending side is about $170,000 of overtime paid to LFD personnel in connection with out-of-town ambulance transport duty. According to Fire Chief Luca Quagliano, when an ambulance is out of the city on transport duty, additional staff are summoned to cover other ambulance calls.

Quagliano said he anticipates that overtime spending will decrease once Lockport Memorial Hospital opens next month. Patients needing a hospital bed cannot be admitted at the hospital’s temporary Emergency Room on South Transit Road, so they’re taken to other hospitals, he said.

Between February and mid June, when Eastern Niagara Hospital was closed, about 50% of people transported by LFD went there. Since mid-June, about 20% of its transports are to the temporary ER and the rest go to a hospital outside Lockport, Quagliano said.

“We’re hoping with the opening of the new hospital we can get those (local transport) numbers up again,” he said.

LFD does not have a separate budget line for ambulance service-related overtime. The department’s allotted overtime for 2023 is $760,000, and Russo’s report showed that $500,000 had been spent, department wide, as of Aug. 31. Overall overtime spending should be less in 2024, because LFD will be fully staffed — with 14 officers and 26 firefighters — to meet the minimum shift manning requirement without call-ins, Quagliano said. More firefighters and paramedics will be spread out across all shifts, he added.

The year-to-date expense figure in Russo’s report on city ambulance service does not include $250,000 for a new ambulance equipped with a power lift stretcher, the purchase of which was approved by the council on Sept. 13. It’s the first new ambulance in the fleet, which currently consists of three used ambulances, two on the road and one in reserve, and it should be on the road next week.

Quagliano said he will be recommending the city buy another new ambulance next year, and possibly one more in 2025, so that the newest vehicles could be rotated every three years for trade-in, which would keep the fleet up to date. The cost of a new ambulance alone is about $180,000, he said; the power lift stretcher can be moved from vehicle to vehicle.

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