Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Looks to Take Over Ambulance Trips - 8 News NOW

Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Looks to Take Over Ambulance Trips

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LAS VEGAS -- The way you get to the hospital in the city of Las Vegas will likely change by the end of the year.

The Las Vegas fire chief wants the city to take the bulk of patients to the hospital instead of private ambulance companies. He has laid out a timeline of when this will all happen.

The Las Vegas fire chief says there are millions of dollars at stake and patient lives on the line.

An efficiency report on the city's fire department suggested changes to be more effective and to bring millions of dollars to the city. The move has many benefits, but it could also cost the jobs of some emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, and paramedics.

Las Vegas Fire and Rescue is ranked among the best fire departments in the entire country. It is an ISO Class 1 organization, meaning it is qualified to handle any type of emergency.

Life and death situations are handled with care every single day.

"I think there will always be a role for a partnership with a private provider," Chief Willie McDonald said.

Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Chief Willie McDonald says his department will ramp up patient transports to emergency rooms.

Right now, it is a toss up whether a patient is taken in a private ambulance or in a city-run ambulance. In the city of Las Vegas, it is American Medical Response, or AMR, that provides the majority of emergency transports to the hospital.

"Right now, they take them more often then we do. We want to get to 50 percent by March. In September, we want to be 60 percent and ultimately we want to get to 75 percent of the time," McDonald said.

The change the chief says benefits the city and the patient in two major ways: millions in revenue for the city every year and something called continuity of care for patients.

"We believe that when the rescuer, that first gets to the patients side, is the same one that treats the patient through and transports them to the hospital and hands them off to the emergency room staff, that the patients wins in that scenario, no matter what," Chief McDonald said.

The Las Vegas firefighters union supports the new transport model for the city,

"We don't want to see people get initially treated that are very sick and then be passed off to another person, so then they can pass them off again," Las Vegas Firefighters Local 1285 Union President Scott Johnson said.

Johnson says the department's great performance is in the numbers, when it comes to patient care. Cardiac arrest survivability is about 5 percent nationwide. In Las Vegas, it is closer to 30 percent.

"From the time you pick up the telephone and dial 911, all the way until you are given to a doctor for additional treatment, and all those pieces in between, we are very good at," Johnson said.

The union president says patient transports generate between $5 million to $6 million per year for the city. The 75 percent transport goal could double that number.

The cash goes right back into the city's general fund.

"It is actually a great benefit in terms of the tax payer because us doing those transports actually offsets the cost of the service," Johnson said.

On the other side of town, AMR has remained quiet about the city's plan. The for-profit ambulance company stands to lose millions in revenue and could possibly eliminate jobs as a result.

The company's contract with the city runs out in 2015. AMR released this statement regarding the situation:

"AMR has been providing care to the residents of Las Vegas since 1953. AMR is very proud to be an integral part of that system, and we have no plans to cease providing that service. We look forward to continued conversations that will ensure valley residents always receive the best and safest level of service."

The Las Vegas fire chief says there will likely always be a need for a secondary ambulance service but how often it would be needed remains to be seen.

The chief came up with the 75 percent transport goal because he says on average Las Vegas Fire and Rescue beats AMR to a calL 75 percent of the time. AMR says that number isn't entirely accurate.

The company's general manager says the private ambulance company arrives first about 30 percent of the time, beating any fire personnel to an emergency.

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