Saturday, August 28, 1999

Ambulance runs to cost city's users

Edgewood latest to charge fee

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        EDGEWOOD — Faced with rising costs and a shortage of life squad volunteers, Edgewood is joining a growing number of Northern Kentucky cities that charge ambulance fees.

        Edgewood City Council approved the fee at its meeting earlier this week.

        Users will be charged $150 for an ambulance run, plus $3 per mile. Extra fees will be charged for the use of items such as cervical collars or defibrillators.

        City officials have not decided when the new fee will take effect.

        However, Edgewood Administrator Lou Noll said that no one will be refused ambulance service because of inability to pay.

        While ambulance users in Edgewood will be billed, those bills can be passed on to insurance companies for reimbursement. Medicare also covers the cost of ambulance runs, Mr. Noll said.

One of the last cities
        Edgewood is one of the last Northern Kentucky cities to institute an ambulance fee, said Paul LaFontaine, Elsmere fire chief and president of the Northern Kentucky Fire Chiefs Association.

        Since 1988, when the Elsmere Fire Department became one of the first Northern Kentucky entities to start charging an ambulance fee, most Kenton and Boone County cities and several in Campbell County have begun charging ambulance fees.

        In most cases, the fee applies to all users, while some departments only charge non-residents for ambulance runs.

        As in Edgewood's case, Northern Kentucky communities generally rely on an ambulance fee to offset the cost of providing the service.

        While Edgewood recently recruited six volunteers for its life squad, it will be nine months to a year before those volunteers are trained and working on a squad, Mr. Noll said.

        “We've been trying to work within the volunteer structure, but it just became obvious within the last several months that we weren't going to be able to do that any more,” Mr. Noll said.

Reliance on mutual aid
        While round-the-clock coverage is still being provided, Edgewood often has to rely on a mutual aid system to prevent gaps in coverage, Mr. Noll said.

        Last week, Edgewood City Council agreed to hire 10 to 15 part-time emergency medical technicians.

        Edgewood Fire and EMS has paid personnel on duty from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The new hires will ensure that the department staffs its life squad from 6 p.m. to midnight, the most difficult time to find volunteers, said Capt. Chris Schutte of Edgewood Fire/EMS.

        “We're going to have to come up with an additional $30,000 to $40,000 to pay for the additional paid personnel,” Mr. Noll said.

        “Rather than raise our property taxes, or other city taxes, we felt this was a more equitable way to fund (life squad service).”

        While concerned about costs, Edgewood officials still plan to use as many volunteer life squad members as possible, Mr. Noll said.


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