GREAT FALLS — The City Commission recently approved new fees for ambulance transport services provided by Great Falls Fire Rescue, in which they say the need is ever growing.
In 2015, the Great Falls Fire Rescue provided transport services to the community only five times.
Great Falls Fire Rescue Chief Jeremy Jones stated, "In 2015, when we started providing EMS transport, we were only doing a handful a year, so we could easily absorbed it into our normal operating budget."
As the years went on, intervening in such situations has become an increasing concern, as they only have two ambulances.
"With the increase this past year to 74 patient transports, there is a cost to providing this level of service," Jones explained. "Whether it'd be disposal materials on the front end that go with the patient, or keeping the fuel in the ambulance, and the equipment to keep on that, so we really pursued this as a cost recovery mechanism to help offset what we were supporting it with our normal operating budget for all hazards, and that was really the component we were going after."
Due to an agreement between Great Falls Fire Rescue and Great Falls Emergency Services, Fire Rescue provides supplemental transport services in the event GFES has no staff or ambulances available in the case of an emergency.
But GFFR transporting more often during a surge presents challenges.
Jones said, "No entity will ever be able to completely staff for any type of surge event, so working with a contract provider of being able to provide that service has been something we've been able to navigate through and manage. The City of Great Falls is the primary EMS provider for all 911 services, and Great Falls Emergency Services is a contracted EMS patient provider. When they do not have enough ambulances, such as in a surge event, then we enter the rotation and provide that level of service."
Jones also told commissioners they hope to use a third-party company to handle patient billing for their services.
"With the low volume of patient transports we do, and the amount of commitment and expertise needed to know how to bill for those services," Jones said. "it just makes sense to send that out a house to a third neutral party."