Green light given to new ambulance transport rates

10 percent increase will bring in an additional $62,000

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Last night the Camas City Council took another step in its ongoing efforts to stabilize the fledgling emergency medical services fund.

A resolution to institute a 10 percent across-the-board increase in ambulance billing rates was unanimously approved.

The new rates, effective as of Dec. 1, are $695 for in-district patients, and $1,110 for those living out of the service district. Mileage rates in-district will be $15.60 per mile, while they will be $18.20 for out of district. Non-emergencies transports will be $510, and a patient who is treated, but not transported, will be charged $180.

Despite the increase, Fire Chief Nick Swinhart said Camas rates remain the lowest in Clark County.

Swinhart said the move is expected to bring in an additional $62,000 in 2012, which will bring the total estimated ambulance fund revenue to $2.84 million.

“As we all know, [the extra money] will be sorely needed by our EMS fund,” Swinhart said.

Earlier this year it was announced that primarily due to a staggering decrease in assessed value rates there would be an estimated $310,000 shortfall in the Camas 2011 emergency medical services budget.

To help offset the deficit, in May the Washougal council approved a $150,000 budget amendment, which involved transferring $95,000 to an EMS fund to offset a shortfall and spending $55,000 for a new hire at the Washougal Fire Department.

In July, the Camas and Washougal fire departments entered into a functional consolidation, which according to fire department officials is already reducing overtime by giving the Camas and Washougal fire departments flexibility to move staff from station to station to fill gaps and maintain minimum staffing.

Swinhart said thanks to these and other efforts, including internal changes within the CFD, the 2011 deficit should be reduced to about $150,000 to $160,000 by the end of the year.

For more than three decades, as part of a voter-approved EMS property tax levy, Camas has been part of an agreement that stipulates that the CFD provides paramedic services to residents living within its boundaries, as well as those of the city of Washougal and the East County Fire and Rescue district in unincorporated Clark County.

Taxpayers in all three jurisdictions contribute to the fund through the levy, which has been renewed every six years since 1980. The most recent levy expires at the end of 2012.

Contributions by the WFD during the past five months along with the consolidation efforts and additional transport fee funding, however, do not completely address the issues surrounding the struggling EMS budget. City officials including Camas Mayor Scott Higgins have said challenging work will continue to be done to nail down a long-term solution.

“It’s right now an unsustainable model and the consolidation isn’t a fix for that,” he said during a recent interview. “It’s a piece, and there are some great efficiencies that our communities are going to benefit from. But there’s still got to be another solution for that EMS piece. I don’t know what the answers are yet. Something structurally will need to be different.”