Saratoga Springs ambulance calls rake in more than $700K
SARATOGA SPRINGS The Saratoga Springs Fire Department, which became the city’s primary ambulance service in February, had generated $726,764 in revenue from the service as of Oct. 1.
Fire Chief Robert Williams said total payments in hand for ambulance transports and advanced life support services are $358,876. The rest of the money is expected to be paid to the city in coming months.
“I think we are on track. We have taken a conservative approach,” Williams said.
The fire department became the primary ambulance service when Saratoga Emergency Medical Services went out of business early this year. The not-for-profit ambulance service had been the city’s primary ambulance provider for more than a decade but ran out of money.
“Things are looking very good,” said Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen about the fire department being in the ambulance business. “I think the chief deserves a lot of credit and the entire department deserves a lot of credit.”
The majority of city firefighters are cross-trained as paramedics or emergency medical technicians. The fire department had been providing emergency services at accident scenes for a decade, but SEMS transported accident victims and collected the considerable transport fees.
The fire department has a primary ambulance and an older, backup rig. Over a period of 240 days, firefighters answered 2,172 emergency services calls and made 1,595 transports to Saratoga Hospital and other health care facilities.
Williams said this amounts to a little more than nine emergency services calls per day. He said 91 percent of these calls were covered by the department’s primary ambulance.
Williams said the city is recovering about $370 per transport call after various adjustments for insurance and those who can’t pay. The average bill for ambulance transport with advanced life support 1 or ALS 2 is $653.
The department has 54 firefighters plus Williams and Assistant Chief Peter Shaw. That number includes 34 paramedics, with most of the rest either EMTs or critical care technicians.
Empire Ambulance Service, a private, for-profit service, provides backup to the fire department for second and third calls when the city ambulance is busy. Empire keeps two of its ambulances at the city’s West Avenue firehouse.
The Public Safety Department is projecting revenue of $700,000 from ambulance transports in the 2013 budget. Both Williams and Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said this is a conservative estimate. The city’s ambulance billing company, MultiMed, is projecting revenue next year between $850,000 to $900,000.
“We don’t have a full [year] cycle yet; the summer is different than the winter,” Williams said about what the ambulance transports can generate.
City firefighters have been busier this year with the new transport duties.
“Overall it’s been received quite well, not only by the firefighters, but also by the people we treat,” Williams said.
Mathiesen said his department is asking for two additional firefighters in the 2013 budget in light of the increased workload. He said the pay for an entry-level firefighter, including benefits, is approximately $55,000.
“They have really kept expenses to a minimum,” said Madigan. “It was controversial when it started, but it’s working out quite well; we are getting a lot of positive feedback.”