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Fort Covington EMS Unit may split from fire department


FORT COVINGTON – The emergency medical services unit of the Volunteer Fire Department announced at the Town Council meeting Monday it plans to separate its funding from the department’s contract with the town.

First Assistant Chief John Bashaw II told the board the Fire Department budget no longer could be expected to cover the ever-increasing costs of ambulances and EMS supplies. The fire department has its own financial concerns in trying to replace a 10-year-old firetruck without also paying $1,800 a month to gas up the ambulance.

“We’re surviving as a fire-based ambulance service, but that’s about all we’re doing,” Mr. Bashaw said.

The EMS unit intends to become self-sustaining through a revenue recovery program that will bill for ambulance transport. This passes the cost of such transportation from the town and taxpayers to a patient’s health insurance. Currently, use of the service is funded through the town’s contract with the department. The billing company the EMS service proposes to use will charge a flat rate of $37 for every billed emergency transport, with the rest of the revenue funneling back into EMS.

Under revenue recovery programs, no one will be denied treatment or transportation even if he does not have insurance, Mr. Bashaw said. Most insurance policies, including Medicaid and Medicare, provide reimbursement for ambulance service. There also will be a “charity cares” service in place that will help pay bills for those in financial distress.

The EMS unit estimates that $60,000 to $65,000 in revenue can be generated through billing for transport. This should be sufficient to sustain the new organization while also providing relief to the Fire Department’s budget.

Mr. Bashaw said he doesn’t expect taxpayers to increase the Fire Department contract, so smart business demands a move in this direction. State law does not allow the EMS unit to implement a revenue recovery program as part of a fire department. The only way this plan can work is to separate officially.

“Nobody wanted to get to this point, but society’s brought us to where we are right now,” he said.

Yet Mr. Bashaw stressed that the EMS unit would not be leaving the fire department. In separating, the newly minted Fort Covington EMS Inc. would rent its current space and ambulance from the department It also would write into the bylaws that the corporation may not end this agreement without consent from both parties.

Another aspect to the decision to separate is that volunteers who want to work as emergency medical technicians for the Fire Department also must receive basic fire training. Mr. Bashaw said he hopes that without this requirement, more interest in volunteering will be generated within the community. There are only four EMTs in the Fort Covington Volunteer Fire Department.

Fort Covington EMS Inc. would require an initial $15,000 startup from the town.

Although the proposal met general encouragement from the council, public hearings will be held on the subject at a later date. Mr. Bashaw said he hopes to have town and state approval for the idea by Nov. 1.

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