Private ambulances with city drivers could pose a problem - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Private ambulances with city drivers could pose a problem

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Posted: Wednesday, June 1, 2005 7:55 pm | Updated: 9:27 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Scottsdale’s new city firefighters could be behind the wheel of at least two private ambulances when the new municipal Fire Department begins work July 1. This unusual arrangement — though temporary — could leave the city with liability problems unless a specific agreement indemnifying taxpayers is reached.

As longtime fire and emergency services provider Rural/Metro Corp. formally ceases serving Scottsdale June 30, Rural/Metro-owned Southwest Ambulance will be providing service to Scottsdale for up to a year — until the council selects a permanent ambulance provider.

The City Council is expected to consider Tuesday a proposal that would have city firefighters/paramedics staffing two transports owned by Southwest.

Southwest, which seeks the permanent contract, is more than willing to allow what is considered to be rare if not unique situation where city employees will be aboard its ambulances. It would reimburse the city for about $150,000 in annual labor costs for several firefighters to staff the ambulances.

But what if a Southwest ambulance driven by a Scottsdale firefighter somehow goes out of control while on a call and someone is injured? Whether Southwest, the city, or both, would be liable for those injuries is a question to which taxpayers have a right to an answer.

The temporary situation could become permanent when the city selects a permanent ambulance provider sometime in the next year, either Southwest or Professional Medical Transport, which is all the more reason for asking the new provier to indemnify the city from liability.

Fire Chief William McDonald told the Tribune that the city will likely ask each bidder to submit two proposals: one with firefighters driving the ambulances and one with ambulance-company employees driving them.

Ambulance-company employees at the wheel, which is the more usual situation, would mean examining proposed locations for housing ambulances. Currently Rural/Metro’s ambulances are based at Scottsdale fire stations, staffed by Rural/Metro firefighters.

Such locations for housing ambulances would have to be near enough to fire stations to best enable fire engines and ambulances to respond simultaneously to calls for service.

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