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County emergency board gets update on process to seek ambulance services

By: Jesse Byrnes jesse.byrnes@gazette.com
June 5, 2013 Updated: June 5, 2013 at 8:45 pm
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The board of directors for the El Paso County Emergency Services Agency got an update Wednesday on the process of seeking bids for ambulance services for unincorporated areas of the county.

Jon Altmann, a Phoenix consultant working with ESA to prepare a request for bids, offered few specifics, saying that his group is interviewing various agencies.

"We're getting good input," Altmann said of the agencies participating, describing their feedback as "frank, thoughtful and positive."

Altmann expects to have interviews done within 10 days and deliver a first draft to the board by end of month. The board hopes to have a final draft of a Request for Proposals by late July or August, said Eileen Gonzalez, the board's contract business administrator.

"We're engaging the hospitals this week," Altmann continued, noting a delay on confusion over who is able to discuss impacts of the Affordable Care Act since it has both financial and clinical discussion components.

ESA - comprised of physicians, first-responder professionals, elected officials and citizens - has overseen ambulance service in Colorado Springs and El Paso County. But in March, the city announced it would pull out of the agency and seek its own ambulance service contract.

El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark, who sits on the ESA board, asked about the differences between the current contract and the city's request for bids.

"There's more similarity than dissimilarity." Altmann said, hesitant to expound as he didn't work with the city on its draft.

"When the city announces how many responses they have that information will be of interest to us," he added.

Clark said she hoped that a more "stringent" contract with the city doesn't limit services, especially for unincorporated areas, expressing disappointment that the city didn't work more closely with the board on the issue.

Altmann said that in general a regional approach offers other efficiencies and cost effectiveness if the parties are in agreement. In this situation, he said, the bottom line is that the city's response will be economic and "they're going to bring costs up," highlighting an example from San Diego.

"When you ask for more, somebody is going to end up paying for it," he added.

Clark said that neither the city nor the ESA board is "an island."

Chairman Jim Reid asked about the possibility of the same agency bidding on both the city and county contracts. Altmann said it's a possibility as an agency might think if it loses on one it can win on another in a county "where it's essentially still good for business."

Reid reiterated that the city has the opportunity through the end of the month to inform the board if it plans to stay in the current contract. If it doesn't stay, Reid said, there will need to be a discussion on how the two contracts can work together.

ESA board member William Normile asked about the hypothetical of confusion over who responds if someone is on a border between two agencies' jurisdictions.

Operationally, Altmann that it will depend on the culture of the fire and emergency dispatching services, but said that it's normal across the country for agencies and providers to come to an agreement. Ultimately, in a situation with unclear boundaries involving multiple ambulance service operations, Altmann said it will come down to field personnel.

"Somebody's going to come - they want to treat that patient," he said.

The board's next meeting is set for July 3.

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