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The concept of automatic aid was discussed in Part 1 of this blog. In Part 2, reform issues related to automatic aid were identified. In this part, Part 3, we’ll look at the issue of ambulance service and the demands on public safety of further future annexations by Glendale.
Ambulance service is currently provided in Glendale by Southwest Ambulance (SW), a subsidiary of Rural Metro Corporation, a national company. Sterling Fluharty of the June 2, 2015 edition of the Glendale Star has a good explanation of the relationship between the city and SW Ambulance. Here is the link: http://www.glendalestar.com/news/article_2edd3a9e-098a-11e5-9695-a7b1941abca4.html . It’s a “he said, she said” kind of fight between the city and SW. Each claims the other owes it money. However, one has every right to wonder if the city is dragging its feet in the negotiation of a new contract with SW while it is at the same time securing its own Certificate of Necessity (CON) with the Arizona Health Department. A CON allows an entity to provide ambulance and associated medical services subject to the requirements imposed by the Arizona Health Department. There is another provider available, American Medical Response (AMR), who has just been awarded a Certificate of Necessity (CON) for all of Maricopa County by the Arizona Health Department.
Glendale Fire Chief Mark Burdick in a February 3, 2015 presentation to city council said, “In 2011, AMR proposed replacing the fire department as a primary emergency medical service provider in Dallas, Cincinnati, and Los Angeles, which forced city councils to choose between the fire department and AMR. Their proposal included removing paramedics from fire trucks while utilizing the fire department units to respond and deliver primary service including patient extrication, treatment, and packaging, while the ambulance would only transport and collect all revenue. This proposal places a majority of the cost on the local government, while allowing the ambulance company to collect all profit.” Since he made those remarks Dallas and Los Angeles have contracted with AMR and Cincinnati has not.
City council would be well served to start over and reissue a Request for Service for ambulance service provision. It is expected that the city would receive bids from Southwest Ambulance, Rural Metro, Phoenix Medical Transport and American Medical Response. After the bids are received staff should present to council the cost implications of all bids to provide ambulance service as well as the investment and on-going costs associated with the city establishing its own ambulance service. The estimated initial start up costs for the city fire department to provide ambulance service would be approximately $1.6 million dollars to cover the purchase of 4 new ambulances at $210,000 each and $760,000 in personnel costs…and that’s just the first year. If staff claims that the cost of city provided ambulance service will pay for itself – council beware. If I had a dollar for every time I heard that claim from staff I would be very rich indeed. Council should then make the decision based upon what provider is both cost effective and efficient for the residents of Glendale. At least ambulance service is not covered by automatic aid so Glendale will not be sending its ambulance service out of town.
Annexation of land to the west of the Loop 101 presents another set of issues for the city regarding public safety. The city’s current annexation policy requires that the entity seeking annexation secure its own water and sewer service from local providers other than the city. The city does not have the necessary water and sewer infrastructure to accommodate new annexations. While that is an excellent solution for the utility issue provision, police and fire provision will be an issue – a costly issue.
There are 3 possible options for police service: 1. Traditional service which would include the capital cost of building a Westside substation; 2. Contract with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office which does not require any capital construction costs or 3. Contract with an alternative service provider which also does not require any capital construction costs.
There are 3 options for fire service as well: 1. Create a county island fire district; 2. Traditional service which would include the capital cost of building an additional fire station; or 3. Contract with an alternative service provider such as Rural Metro which does not require any capital construction costs. Perhaps, just perhaps, some of the inequity in fire emergency response (not ambulance service) would be mitigated if other, closer jurisdictions ended up responding to newly annexed areas. City council must consider the cost implications of annexing more land into Glendale until such time as Glendale’s finances can accommodate the additional costs.
The bottom line is these issues impact the public’s health and safety. Council is mandated to look at this issue very carefully while considering the cost to taxpayers. Sometimes we want a Cadillac when a Ford will do.
© Joyce Clark, 2015
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