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Local ambulance service providers at odds

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent
ALL |

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A dispute has arisen between the two entities providing “inter-facility transport” (IFT) ambulance services to Valley View Hospital (VVH), under which patients are transported from one hospital to another.

Following a request from the hospital’s management, the Colorado River Fire Rescue Authority in January began providing IFT services to the hospital.

That means the district’s ambulance crews will be taking critical-care patients from VVH, at a rate of up to 10 transports per month, to better-equipped hospitals either in Denver or Grand Junction.



But IFT services previously have been provided by TransCare Ambulance, a private, for-profit service based in Montrose, which moved into Garfield County in 2009 to fill a service vacuum left when the Silt-based West Care Ambulance service dissolved. TransCare does not normally provide 911 service to local communities.

Currently, TransCare provides IFT service to both VVH and to the Grand River Hospital in Rifle, and TransCare is not happy that the authority is stepping into the IFT business.



According to VVH spokeswoman Stacey Gavrell, the hospital feels coverage by two IFT providers is the best way of “making sure that patients have the inter-facility transport that’s needed,” when it is needed.

“Our intent is not to take over, or do harm to a private, for-profit business,” stressed the authority’s chief, Mike Morgan.

“Our commitment to this is for service to our customers,” added Chad Harris, a division chief in the authority.

In a March 6 letter to the editor, TransCare Ambulance Service chief Allen Hughes has accused the authority of leaving the towns of Silt and New Castle “under-protected” when the authority’s ambulances are being used to take patients to distant hospitals.

Hughes’ letter offered to provide 911 emergency medical transport service to Silt and New Castle residents “at no cost to the public other than through normal billing practices.”

Predictably, authority officials see it differently.

“That’s not accurate,” said Morgan, about Hughes’ charges. “We’re not leaving communities uncovered.”

Under the fire authority rules, he said, the fire and rescue stations in Rifle, Silt and New Castle are staffed 24 hours a day, so there is no gap in coverage.

And for those times when one or more ambulance calls take crews out of one station or another for a time, the authority can shift personnel around to ensure that all the stations can respond to emergency calls, Morgan said.

Morgan noted that the contract with Valley View stipulates that the hospital will call for IFT service from the authority no more than 10 times a month.

And, said division chief Rob Willits, the authority has more than 100 full-time, part-time and volunteer workers, as well as a cadre of administrative staff, all of whom are certified and experienced at ambulance duty and can be called in when needed.

The authority also has mutual aid commitments with the Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Grand Valley and Grand Junction ambulance and fire protection services, should the need arise for more personnel than the authority itself can handle.

“They are better covered now than they’ve ever been,” Morgan said of the communities of Rifle, Silt and New Castle.

In a second letter, Hughes maintains that district taxpayers will be on the hook for $316,000 in annual subsidy costs for the CRFRA’s new IFT service (see letter to the editor, page A22).

Hughes, in his letter, said his figures “are based on industry standards for staffing and budgeted expenses.”

But Morgan said of Hughes’ accusations, “I don’t know where he’s getting his figures, but they’re not from us.”

For one thing, Morgan said, “We haven’t added a single employee” for the IFT services, so there has been no increase in basic costs.

And for the first three months of the service, Morgan said, Valley View is paying the authority $5,400 per month to take the financial burden for the service off the authority’s taxpayers while the CRFRA sets up a billing system for the new service.

“It’s coming together as we speak,” said Morgan.

Efforts to contact Hughes for additional comment were not successful.

Morgan also said there will be three community meetings next month – on April 10 in New Castle, April 17 in Silt and April 24 in Rifle, all at 7 p.m. – at which authority officials and VVH representatives will provide citizens with any additional information needed on the subject of the IFT service.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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