With the reduction of ambulance services looming for just over a month, officials county wide have been working to come up with solutions before the cuts go into effect on Friday.
Enloe Medical Center announced in October that they will be reducing Advanced Life Support Ambulance services in Colusa County to just one round-the-clock ambulance to serve the approximately 22,000 residents that live within the county’s 1,200-square miles, starting Nov. 15.
Colusa County Board of Supervisors chairperson Kent Boes said to maintain current ambulance services – which consists of one 24-hour ambulance and one 12-hour ambulance – various county entities would have to subsidize $440,000.
In a letter penned by Marty Marshall, Director of Emergency Medical Services at Enloe Medical Center, reimbursement rates lower than the direct costs of the program transport basics were cited as the reason for the cut.
According to Marshall, the current deployment plan’s direct cost per transport is now approximately $1,360 while the average reimbursement is only $670 per transport and Medicare and Medi-Cal averages $589 and $174 per transport. Marshall said Medicare and Medi-Cal represent approximately 75 percent of the transport volume for the county.
Boes said city officials from Colusa and Williams along with county and fire district officials attended stakeholder meetings on Oct. 22 and Nov. 4 to discuss how to deal with this perpetual problem moving forward.
“The board was willing to put up $100,000 towards the subsidy to keep services going until June,” said Boes. “But there was very little interest in solving the short term problem of paying the subsidy just to keep services for a while longer. The bigger problem here is that no matter how much money we throw at this, we are still going to have an ongoing issue.”
According to Boes, county officials began working with the AP Triton Consulting, LLC. on Nov. 1 to conduct two analysis of the county’s current service model.
“These analysis will give us a better look at the problem,” said Boes.
The first, an EMS System Valuation, will examine pair mixes, collections and cost recovery options to determine how much it actually costs for an ambulance to service Colusa County. The second, an Ambulance Feasibility study, will compile service information and input from county officials to create deployment models, examine possible shortfalls and formulate solutions to address those shortfalls.
According to Boes, it will cost $62,000 to complete both studies.
“If we are going to be throwing money at this, this will at lease help us figure out how to best move forward,” said Boes.
Boes said the Board has already signed a contract with AP Triton to begin the first analysis, which is expected to be completed by mid December.
Williams Fire Chief Jeff Gilbert said he thinks the Board of Supervisors is heading in the right direction.
“These analysis will tell us what the true needs and cost of services for the county are,” said Gilbert. “It’s an unfortunate situation but the analysis will lead us to develop a better plan.”
Gilbert said that while he does not anticipate call volumes to go up due to the cuts, he said county residents should be prepared for longer response times.
According to documents obtained from Sierra-Sacramento Valley Emergency Medical Services, the agency that contracts with Enloe to provide ambulance services to the county, average response times for this year have been approximately 8 minutes in Colusa, 12 minutes in Williams, 47 minutes in Stonyford and 15 minutes throughout the rest of the county.
Colusa Fire Chief Logan Conley said he held a public workshop on Tuesday to release plans for the city of Colusa to obtain an alternative transportation vehicle that could be used for intercity transports.
Boes said the bottomline is that the county will be going down to one 24-hour ambulance to service the entire county starting Friday, but because of non-emergency related transports services such as Inter-Facitly Transports monopolizing a large portion of the second ambulances transports, he anticipates emergency services will remain relatively the same.
“We’ve had limited availability for awhile,” said Boes.
Boes said other options such as finding other ambulance service providers willing to operate in Colusa County have been considered but officials are waiting for feedback from the analysis before making any major decisions moving forward.