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Aug 7, 2013 8:53 PM by Andy Koen

Split over ambulance service leads to worries about service

COLORADO SPRINGS - The boundary lines between the City of Colorado Springs and El Paso County are much more sharply defined when it comes to ambulance service. Earlier this year city opted to split from the umbrella organization the Emergency Services Agency to have more control over which company takes you to the hospital.

The current contract with American Medical Response, which covers the City Colorado Springs, unincorporated El Paso County and roughly 20 rural fire districts within the county, will expire in March. At today's ESA informal meeting, Fountain resident Deborah Stout-Meininger voiced her worry that city ambulances might bypass emergencies in the county.

"The problem is that the RFP that Colorado Springs presented, that the city council initially approved has a clause in there ... that they are not allowed to provide mutual response outside the city limits," she said.

Bidding is closed for the city's new contract. The 69-page document called a Request for Proposal (RFP) includes language that allows the contractor to accept mutual aid in cases of extraordinary high call volume, and only if no city resources are available.

The contractor must also receive approval from the fire chief before entering into mutual aid agreements for emergency calls in the city.

City Councilman Andres Pico says there is no need to worry. If a city ambulance is closer to an emergency outside city limits, Pico believes they will still respond first.

"What we're working on is to ensure that mutual aid is included in the contract so that we go to the aid of anyone who needs it and we'll sort out the costs later on," he said.

Since the bulk of ambulance calls happen within city limits, the Emergency Services Agency will likely lose discounts associated with volume.

However, Emergency Services Agency Executive Director Jim Reid says there are other ways to save costs with a new contract.

"We'll have fewer ambulances on the road, so that's helpful," Reid said. "Where we strategically locate (the ambulances), that's great, we'll work with the local fire departments where they can supplement that to help with the response times."

The ESA was formed back in 1995 to provide continuity of service across jurisdictional boundaries and to lower costs by pooling the numbers of calls. Reid expects the dual ambulance system will have its challenges early on.

"That's going to take some time and some coordination and I think initially that may be it doesn't work as well or maybe it does work well right away, but we'll make improvements as we go along and our key concern is that patient."

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