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How can ambulance services be improved in Quad Cities?
Fire department officials offer their opinions

Life Line Ambulance medics take a “victim” to a waiting helicopter as the Prescott Airport holds a mass casualty drill in August 2017. (Les Stukenberg/Courier file)

Life Line Ambulance medics take a “victim” to a waiting helicopter as the Prescott Airport holds a mass casualty drill in August 2017. (Les Stukenberg/Courier file)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part two of a two-part series on ambulance service in the Quad Cities. For part one, click here.

Concerns from local fire departments about Life Line Ambulance’s response times in the last few years has spurred a conversation about whether or not the company needs to change the way it operates in the Quad Cities.

Life Line maintains a contract with the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) to provide this service.

That contract is known as a Certificate of Necessity (CON), which is essentially a system used to regulate ground ambulance service throughout Arizona. Overseen by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), the system is designed to make sure that every place in the state has adequate emergency medical services.

A CON contract describes the geographic service area, level of service (advanced life support or basic life support), hours of operation, response times, effective date, expiration date and any limiting or special provisions for emergency medical services in the specified geographic area. In this case, Life Line’s CON covers more than 9,000 square miles of service area, stretching from Tusayan in the north, Wittmann in the south, Seligman in the west and Parks in the east.

The company is compliant with its CON’s requirements, according to ADHS, but local fire officials are calling into question the standards of that CON.

“It’s too lenient,” said Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority (CAFMA) Fire Chief Scott Freitag. “Anyone can be within that CON.”

Freitag’s concerns are specific to the Quad Cities. For this area, Life Line’s CON requires them to respond to emergency 911 calls within 10 minutes 70 percent of the time, 15 minutes 90 percent of the time, 30 minutes 95 percent of the time and 75 minutes 100 percent of the time.

Currently, a Life Line ambulance is on the scene responding to a 911 call in under 10 minutes on 74 percent of responses and within 15 minutes 94 percent of the time, according to AMR.

These response times compare to CAFMA’s 90th percentile of about six minutes in Prescott Valley and a little over eight minutes throughout the rest of its jurisdiction. Meaning, crews are on site in those time amounts for nine out of 10 calls. Prescott Fire Department Chief Dennis Light said those figures are about the same for his department as well.

To resolve this response time disparity between Life Line and fire personnel, both Freitag and Light believe the CON held by Life Line needs to be updated.

“To be frank, their CON area is really too big and needs to be parceled out,” Light said. “The demographics have changed, but the standards haven’t.”

In other words, some areas within the boundaries of the CON – such as Prescott and Prescott Valley – that were once considered rural 30 years ago are now much more densely populated. Therefore, Light and Freitag are suggesting that amendments be made to Life Line’s CON to tighten the response time requirements for the Quad Cities.

“I think 10 minutes 90 percent of the time is much more appropriate for our area,” Freitag said.

Terry Mullins, bureau chief for ADHS, said this is not an unreasonable discussion to have with Life Line.

“If those response times were identified and there has been a significant change in the population demographics, that might suggest that it would be appropriate for the ambulance service to work with the community,” Mullins said.

Freitag intends to file as an intervenor during Life Line’s next CON renewal process in September to bring this suggestion up.

“The 1,900 square miles covered under AMR’s CON needs to be addressed,” Freitag said.

Glenn Kasprzyk, chief operating officer for AMR’s northern Arizona region, disagrees with this perception.

“The system has to be looked at globally,” Kasprzyk said. “It would be very difficult to micro each community out.”

Follow Max Efrein on Twitter @mefrein, email him at mefrein@prescottaz.com or call him at 928-445-3333 ext. 1105.

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