New ambulance contract covers N. Chandler ‘gaps’ SanTan Sun News

New ambulance contract covers N. Chandler ‘gaps’

April 12th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
New ambulance contract covers N. Chandler ‘gaps’
Community
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By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

City Council has approved a new contract that could potentially help fill Chandler’s “gaps” for ambulance service – especially in the northern part of the city.

On March 25, Council approved a four-year contract with Maricopa Ambulance to provide a fleet of new ambulances for the Fire Department’s paramedics.

If affirmed by the Arizona Department of Health Services, the contract would go into effect next January, when Chandler’s current contract with American Medical Response expires.   

Maricopa Ambulance is promising an extra ambulance, more back-up service and a higher reimbursement rate to the city. 

“We truly believe that this new contract will enhance our ability to offer public safety to our citizens,” said Fire Chief Tom Dwiggins.

City data show ambulance transports have been increasing annually in Chandler over the last few years, creating an environment where the city occasionally has limited or no coverage for emergency medicine.

“This increased demand for ambulances has created a system that is resource-strained,” a city memo states, “which has resulted in reduced access to emergency transportation and increased response times for critical patients.”

Dwiggins said Chandler currently has gaps of time where the city has to wait for ambulances to travel from nearby communities in order to respond to a local emergency.   

A couple hours may go by before a back-up ambulance arrives in Chandler, the chief explained, while the other ambulances are scrambling around the city.

“Our ambulances are busy and a lot of times there are mechanical issues where they have to come out of service,” Dwiggins said, “when they go out of service, we have to change them out with another ambulance.”

Chandler has been reviewing all of its public safety needs this past year and has noticed a significant lack of service in the city’s northern region.

The fire chief has previously claimed that one of the city’s fire stations, located near Alma School and Warner roads, can only respond to about 65 percent of the 4,700 emergency calls it gets each year.

“1,600 times, they’re not available,” Dwiggins said earlier this year. “They’re probably on another call or they’re coming back from another call and they’re too far out.”

The city’s current contract gives Chandler access to five ambulances at all times. Maricopa Ambulance will offer six ambulances and three back-ups.

The addition of a sixth ambulance will require the city to supply at least three more paramedics, meaning Maricopa will have to reimburse Chandler about $2.3 million annually to cover salaries and benefits.

The city recoups about $1.5 million in personnel costs from its present contractor.   

Maricopa’s contract additionally offers an extra “peak-time” ambulance whenever Chandler is experiencing a high number of 911 calls. The city presently has peak-time coverage Monday through Friday and Maricopa will expand that coverage for the weekend hours.

Maricopa will pay $145,000 to lodge some of its ambulances at Chandler’s fire stations, which the city believes will efficiently manage resources after an emergency arises.

“This deployment model maintains control over the distribution of these valuable resources and consistency in radio communications throughout the system,” a city memo states.

Maricopa said each of its ambulances are specially configured to house firefighter gear and extrication equipment that allows the city’s paramedics to respond to any emergency with greater readiness.

Dwiggins said Maricopa’s ambulances are stocked with state-of-the-art technology that can better serve patients and the city’s first-responders.    

Chandler’s new contract could be the beginning of a strong partnership, the chief said, that may boost the clinical quality of the city’s public safety services.

“It should decrease our out-of-service times significantly,” Dwiggins added.

Maricopa Ambulance started offering its emergency services in 2016 and currently has ambulances in Scottsdale, Glendale, Goodyear and Surprise.

“The public-private partnership with Chandler Fire in this new contract perfectly fits in the wheelhouse of what we do well and our philosophy of collaboration with community partners,” said Maricopa Ambulance Regional President Alan Smith.

Chandler’s leaders are hopeful state authorities will take no issue with the city’s new contract and will quickly get through the process of ratifying it.

Councilman Matt Orlando said he’s excited to see the city and Maricopa Ambulance work together to better ensure no resident has to worry about their health during an emergency.

“The key goal is to make sure we’re responding to our residents and businesses in a timely and safe manner,” Orlando said.

Councilwoman Christine Ellis, who has worked in the medical field, thinks the Maricopa contract should improve the city’s services and quality of care.

“This is a wonderful way for us to get to our patients in the community the fastest and once we have them in the ambulance, we know we can actually get them safely to a hospital,” Ellis said.

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