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Columbus Fire Department, Columbus Regional Hospital and Seals Ambulance would need taxpayers to kick in extra cash to subsidize the cost of providing ambulance service to Columbus and perhaps Bartholomew County residents.
But TransCare and Rural/Metro Corp. propose to provide ambulance service without the need for any additional subsidies.
All five entities submitted proposals during a special meeting Tuesday of the Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety. The board will review the proposals and choose a provider July 17.
Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown is looking for an ambulance provider that will ensure fast response times and quality care while guaranteeing the best value for city taxpayers. The hospital provides primary ambulance service to the city and county for a subsidy of more than $950,000, of which the city pays 75 percent of the total — more than $700,000 a year.
Columbus Fire Chief Joel Thacker presented a plan in which the city would lease three ambulances and hire 18 emergency medical technicians and paramedics to staff them, providing service just to the city.
If it provided service to the county, too, it would lease a fourth ambulance and need 24 medics. None of the personnel would include firefighters.
Thacker estimated that if the department served the city only, the Columbus Fire Department would operate at a loss of about $314,000 the first year, partly because of start-up costs, and about $156,839 the second year. If it also served the county, the loss would be about $274,000 the first year and $77,178 the second.
Those losses would have to be made up with city tax dollars.
Columbus Regional Hospital would use three of its own ambulances and ask for about $560,000 in subsidies the first year if the service is for the city only; about $640,000 the first year if service is expanded to the county with a fourth ambulance; and about $300,000 the first year if the hospital uses a flexible plan that would distribute manpower where and when needed most.
The $300,000 subsidy would disappear after the first year, hospital CEO Jim Bickel said.
Seals Ambulance, of Indianapolis, would provide three ambulances to the city and a fourth ambulance if the county gets involved.
Owner Randy Seals estimated the private provider would need a subsidy of $235,000 the first year if the service is for city only, $175,000 the first year if the service is for the city and county, and something less than that if the city allows Seals the flexibility to study the times and locations ambulances most likely will be needed and assign ambulances accordingly.
TransCare, a national service, believes efficiency and the fact that it already has four ambulances in Columbus providing service to nursing homes would allow it to offer the service without need for a subsidy, company President Russell Ferrell said.
He said the private company would provide three ambulances for city service and four ambulances for city service that includes the county. However, he said the total ambulances would be eight, because the four already here could provide backup.
Rural/Metro Corp., of Indianapolis, also would provide three ambulances for city service and four ambulances for a combined city-county service. It promises to need no subsidies, partly because of its diligence in collecting fees from insurance companies, said Dan Gillespie, general manager for the company’s Indiana division.
He said Rural/Metro is the largest ambulance provider in Indiana, and its medical personnel on its ambulances have an average of 20 years’ experience.
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