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Fire budget to benefit with new AMR contract
In the past year, 66 percent of the calls Turlock Fire responded to were for emergency medical services. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

The Turlock Fire Department is readying to usher in a new era with the county’s ambulance provider that could result in city savings.

TFD will soon be getting reimbursements from American Medical Response for emergency medical calls, as stipulated in contract negotiations, said Turlock Fire Chief Tim Lohman.

“Service levels won’t change, but this will have a big impact on our organization,” Lohman said.

Stanislaus County signed a new five year contract with AMR in April 2013. One caveat of the contract was that AMR had to negotiate reimbursement expenses with the fire departments in the county for when the departments send personnel to medical service calls.

The reimbursements would cover the supplies the TFD uses during a medical emergency call and pay them an hourly rate for when they are called to assist AMR personnel.

In the past year, 66 percent of the calls TFD responded to were for emergency medical services, Lohman said. In the majority of the emergency medical calls the fire department is the first to arrive at the scene and they begin providing service. Once AMR arrives they typically take over the care, but the supplies being used, which can range from bandages to oxygen tanks, belong to the fire department.

The city has previously absorbed all the costs associated with the fire department’s response to medical calls, but now the new agreement will have AMR furnishing the supplies. AMR will supply the fire department with a cache of medical supplies that can be used in the medical service calls. Lohman estimates this provision will save the department around $15,000 a year in medical supply costs.

In that same vein, AMR will begin reimbursing the fire department for when automatic external defibrillators are used at a call by fire personnel. AMR also will provide the supplies for the AEDs.

Going forward in the new agreement, AMR will provide monetary reimbursements for when the fire department provides requested assistance. TFD will be paid an hourly rate of $236.12 by AMR. The requests typically are for lift assists, for a fire fighter to ride with the ambulance for additional support, and for a fire engine to be placed on standby for a call.

Lohman estimated the fire department has approximately 125 of these requests per year. The reimbursement rate will be adjusted with AMR’s annual rate increases.

The Turlock City Council will vote on whether to accept the new arrangements with AMR at their meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday.