Brigham City to charge for unnecessary ambulance requests

Apr 16 2012 - 11:25pm

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BRIGHAM CITY -- Residents who request a visit by a city ambulance but don't end up being transported to the hospital soon will be required to pay a $100 fee.

The city council has approved the emergency management fee to cover the city's costs of dispatching the EMTs and their highly specialized vehicles.

"We have to ensure the taxpayers are given those services, and we've taken every opportunity to offset those expenses," said Jim Buchanan, the city's emergency management director. The fee takes effect July 1.

However, the new fee will not result in anyone being declined first aid if they can't pay.

"It's not meant to take away any services to the public. It's not a matter of us having to see your insurance card before we begin," said Buchanan. "We're just looking out for residents' tax dollars."

The council also approved an increase in ambulance rates when a patient is transported. Buchanan estimated the increase at 2 to 3 percent. It's the first rate increase since 2007, he said. The Utah State Department of Health sets maximum rates that ambulance services can charge, and Brigham City's increase reflects an increase in the state guideline, he said.

The cost for transport ambulance services varies, depending on such factors as mileage and whether the victim receives basic or advanced life-support services.

The $100 fee for first-aid, nontransport calls will cover supplies. The fee will also be applied to those times the fire department responds to traffic accidents, said Buchanan. The fire department is called to traffic accidents by dispatch if injuries are reported; often firefighters are needed to extricate drivers or clean up toxic spills.

Of approximately 2,000 ambulance calls made last year, Buchanan said, 770 concluded without anyone being transported to the hospital, and "yet we're spending city resources to go," he said. "This is a way to, hopefully, recapture some of those."

Buchanan said the troubled economy has hurt even ambulance services, although ambulance services aren't something families can write out of their budgets.

"This is being done to address the downturn in the economy," Buchanan said.

The $100 fee also will apply to instances where the fire department is called to clean up hazardous materials at a residence or business.

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