Department of Health OKs Maricopa Ambulance Scottsdale contract provisions

Maricopa Ambulance will be taking over Scottsdale emergency ambulatory services Saturday, Feb. 17. (File photo)

On Feb. 8 the Arizona Department of Health Services gave its final blessings on the pending contract between the city of Scottsdale and Maricopa Ambulance to deliver emergency medical care for residents who call 9-1-1.

Scottsdale City Council last December unanimously selected Maricopa Ambulance as its ambulance service partner. The contract takes effect Saturday, Feb. 17, according to tenets of the municipal contract.

“The Bureau of EMS and Trauma System has completed the review and has determined that the contract C2017-163-COS-A1 is in compliance with your certificate of necessity and not in violation of any of its current terms and conditions,” said Aaron Sams, CON and ambulance rates manger at the Arizona Department of Health Services, in his Feb. 8 approval letter.

“It is understood the provider is responsible for the control, supervision, staffing and scheduling of all ambulance personnel relevant to this ground ambulance service contract. Any future agreements, accords, covenants, extensions, amendments, contracts or instruments not addressed in this letter must be approved by the department prior to implementation.”

Historically, the Rural/Metro ambulance service was the dominant provider in Scottsdale and in other parts of the Valley of the Sun, but in recent years the third-party emergency services provider has changed ownership a few times with American Medical Response Transport taking the reins in 2015.

American Medical is the corporate owner of PMT Ambulance, Life Line Ambulance and Rural/Metro. Records show on May 9, 2017, the city of Scottsdale entered into a no-bid agreement with American Medical Response Transport.

However, that contract never came to fruition as a new public bid was issued weeks later when the city manager’s office became aware a new third-party ambulance operator emerged in the Scottsdale marketplace: Maricopa Ambulance.

Last month, Brett Johnson and Colin Ahler of the Law Offices of Snell & Wilmer filed a legal bid protest and formal request for reconsideration of its November 2017 bid protest request, which was ultimately denied by the city of Scottsdale.

The January 2018 challenge brought claim the contract did not meet Arizona Revised Statute 36-2234, which states, among other things, that an ambulance service contract between a municipality and a third-party must be ratified by ADHS and in-tune with the already in-place Certificate of Necessity.

The Certificate of Necessity outlines the geographic service area, level of service, hours of operation, response times, effective date, expiration date and any limiting or special provisions for emergency medical services to be provided by the third-party ambulance effort, according to the Department of Health Services.

According to the Arizona Ground Ambulance Service Rate Schedule adopted in October 2015, the Certificate of Necessity for District 71, which is held by American Response until later this week, covers the city of Scottsdale, charges a rate of $898 per advanced life support ambulance transport and $800 per basic life support ambulance transport.

Prior to its February approval of the contract, the Department of Health Services on Dec. 21, 2017, according to Mr. Sams, outlined eight provisions of the approved ambulance services contract that did not meet state standards including:

  • Specific language for standby and waiting fees to be assessed;
  • The financial impact of dedicated ambulances call volumes and associated costs;
  • How litigation disputes would be handled and financial policies in place to address them if they were to arise;
  • The lack of a formal mobile integrated health plan defined by the city of Scottsdale but not outlined in specific contract language; and
  • Financial reserve policies for existing and new positions, clinical upgrades and training efforts.

But the Feb. 8 DHS letter gives formal approval, confirms the eight challenged provisions have been corrected and the Maricopa Ambulance contract ought to go into effect Feb. 17, records show.

“Furthermore, the rates and charges, or other provisions specified in the service contract do not adversely affect any fixed rates or charges to the general public,” Mr. Sams said. “Therefore pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute 36-2232 and Arizona Administrative Code R9-25-1104 and R9-25-1201(c)(5) your service contract is hereby approved effective the date of this approval letter.”

Tom Shannon

American Medical officials contend the new contract will provide for only basic life support as Maricopa Ambulance will carry EMTs on their ambulance in contrast to American Medical’s policy of carrying one paramedic on each of its ambulances.

However, Scottsdale Fire Chief Tom Shannon is steadfast in the assertion that in the event of a medical emergency a SFD paramedic will be riding with a patient in distress to the hospital.

“The Scottsdale Fire Department has and will continue to provide two paramedics and two EMTs on each fire truck,” he said in a January statement to the Independent.

“As the primary provider of direct patient care in the pre-hospital setting, the fire department relies on its paramedics to assure consistency and continuity of care to our patients. The presence of a paramedic on the private ambulance provided greater opportunity for the private ambulance to conduct inter-facility transports outside of their 9-1-1 system response obligations.”

John Karolzak, director of American Medical Response Transport Government and Public Affairs, continues to call into question changes to contracts previously carried out by his employer.

“The contract that was approved by the Department of Health Services is materially different from the request for proposal that was led by the city of Scottsdale,” he said in a Feb. 13 phone interview. “We will evaluate any options that are available.”

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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