Trending Topics

Ariz. FD seeks to increase transport billing to staff additional ambulance

Gilbert Fire and Rescue plans to use the revenue from a 1.7% increase to staff an additional ambulance


A Gilbert Fire and Rescue ambulance.

Gilbert Fire and Rescue/Facebook

By Cecilia Chan
East Valley Tribune

GILBERT, Ariz. — Gilbert is looking to hike the price of an ambulance ride, using the additional revenue to staff another ambulance to help maintain response times.

Fire Chief Rob Duggan got the nod last week at the council financial retreat to apply for a 1.7% increase in rates from the Arizona Department of Health Services, which oversees ambulance services.

“We are asking this so that we can proactively maintain our response times, the criteria throughout the entire town,” Duggan said. “And also ensure the long-term financial stability of the division.

“This is a user-based fee so only those that utilize our transport by Gilbert Fire and Rescue Department are impacted.”

The department in 2019 shifted services in-house because the town’s private provider wasn’t providing equal response times throughout Gilbert.

DHS sets the maximum rates for ambulance operators each year after analyzing market-driven factors such as inflation. This year, the state agency approved rate increases of 1.7%, Duggan said.

The department would charge $924.88 for advanced life support transport and $824.23 for basic life support. Currently the charges are $913.01 and $813.65, respectively. Most of the department’s transports are ALS calls.

With the increase, Gilbert’s rates would still be lower by over $80 than the Phoenix Metro rate, according to Duggan.

And Gilbert doe not currently charge for medical supplies, he said, adding that the department was researching a charge to patients for disposable items such as paper blankets gloves and masks used on transports.

He said that if DHS grants the increase, it would bring Gilbert more in line with what the vast majority of its municipal partners in the Phoenix metro area were charging.

“Moving into this rate would put us in a better position to bring on a seventh transport unit,” Duggan said; “right now we have six that are constantly staffed 24/7.”

The additional revenue would be used to staff the seventh unit. The department has already purchased three ambulances that are expected to arrive in a couple of months, Duggan said.

The department doesn’t have the call volume yet to trigger the need for another full-time ambulance on the road but having it in operation would provide flexibility with staffing, according to Duggan.

The ambulance could be shut down for the day if the staff is needed to fill in on another ambulance, cutting down on overtime and also provide relief to crews in busier areas, he added.

He added that maximizing the rate would financially protect the town from potential federal and state reimbursement reductions in Medicare and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.

Council also gave consensus for Development Services to do a study for possible fee increases later on. The department collects fees such as for permits, licenses and plan reviews.

The fees last went up in 2006 when it increased by 6%, according to department Director Kyle Mieras. The department in 2018-19 analyzed the fees for increases but the pandemic put a pause on moving forward with a hike.

“The intent of most of these fees is to recoup or come as close as possible to recouping cost for the services that we’ve been providing,” Mieras said. “We really don’t want to be subsidizing development in any way and our direction has always been growth pays for growth as we move forward.”

Mieras said that the current fee schedule is not covering the department’s expenditures and that the General Fund will need to offset that by $5.7 million this coming fiscal year.

He said that this was not the first time the department has seen a deficit like this and in the past. a cost-for-service study was done to try and close the gap as much as possible.

“We know the longer we wait to do this, to take a look at our fees, the larger that gap is going to get,” Mieras said.

Councilwoman Kathy Tilque, who retired after a long career leading the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, cautioned against going for 100% recovery.

“In some cases this isn’t a cost-recovery center,” Tilque said. “It’s really a cost of doing business as well.

“The projects that go through your department are the ones bringing us money at the end of the day. This is the only department that is really bringing in the money that pays for everything we are doing at the end of the day because if we are not building and bringing those businesses in or they never came in to begin with we wouldn’t be talking about them.”

Mieras said staff would be mindful in how the fees fit in with its neighbors such as Chandler and Queen Creek.

“Don’t be so focused on comparing us against other people,” Councilman Chuck Bongiovanni said. “If it costs this much, it costs this much.

“People want to do business in Gilbert so I wouldn’t have us lose money because the other cities are aligned right either.”

He suggested the department charge more for providing expedited services.

(c)2024 East Valley Tribune (Mesa, Ariz.)
Visit East Valley Tribune (Mesa, Ariz.) at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.