Four East Valley municipalities plan to develop a regional ambulance service and centralized dispatch system in what officials say will greatly improve efficiencies in the area.
The Mesa City Council on Thursday morning discussed its proposal for the regional plan that includes Apache Junction and the towns of Gilbert and Queen Creek.
Similar to what's known as automatic aid agreements among Valley cities that provide the nearest and most available fire truck to respond to calls, the plan calls for one ambulance provider to respond to an emergency that would be allowed to cross town boundaries and provide service without violating any agreements between cities or towns.
Currently, all four municipalities use Southwest Ambulance as their emergency provider. If city and town councils formalize the plan, another ambulance service could serve those areas as soon as early this year.
Officials from all four municipalities said they are satisfied with the level of service they are receiving from Southwest but said they consider the plan as being "pre-emptive" to any mistakes happening and would seek bids from ambulance service providers.
The announcement for such a plan was revealed at Mesa City Hall with many city leaders and fire department officials from the four municipalities present, all seeking to staff ambulances with crews capable of providing consistent service.
Although ambulances respond to calls in Mesa in about 9 minutes or less 90 percent of the time, the plan is projected to improve emergency response times that sometimes have service gaps in geographical areas of the southeast Valley when response times can be as long as 15 to 20 minutes. The plan also would call for ambulances to carry advanced life-saving support equipment and staff capable of responding to more serious calls.
"As we grow as a region and individually, we have to remain committed to public safety and providing the best service we possibly can," said Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. "We have continued to operate under different agreements with different requirements under our certificates of needs, causing inefficiencies to exist. When inefficiencies exist, there is a degradation of services."
For example, Mesa has 11 ambulances dedicated for service throughout the day, and Gilbert has five, and Mesa could be better prepared to provide one to Gilbert if needed.
Gilbert will present the proposal to its town council on Feb. 10, and Queen Creek and the Apache Junction Fire District will present the proposal to their councils on Feb. 18.
Southwest's service contract expiration dates with Mesa, Gilbert, Queen Creek and Apache Junction are scattered, but all have provisions that would allow them to provide at least 60 days' notice in the event another private ambulance provider is found.