Here is what we’ve learned about the El Dorado County Emergency Services Authority, aka the ambulance district joint powers authority. No. 1. Ambulance service shows up on a homeowner’s tax bill as a $25 charge for County Service Area 7. No. 2. Five different fire districts have ambulances in their station houses: County Fire, Diamond Springs, Georgetown, Cameron Park and El Dorado Hills. El Dorado County Fire Protection District has the most ambulances and is broke, forced to borrow money from the county general fund.
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There are eight ambulances serving the western slope of the county. About four agencies have made individual proposals to run the ambulance service instead of the five districts and the Joint Powers Authority. Several claim they can do it for less than the $11 million budget. One district said it could even increase the number of ambulances to 10.
A meeting of the fire chiefs in late August produced some formal proposals but no action. That was to be expected. To serve the wide area the ambulances would have to continue to be stationed in the various firehouses. It seems unlikely that chiefs will surrender control or that the paramedics will agree to pay cuts. The quality of pre-hospital care by the paramedics often draws praise from the emergency room doctors. It also draws thanks from the patients and their family members.
From the meeting of the chiefs we learned that the ambulance service has gone over budget for the last three years.
The county auditor reported Sept. 19, the following fiscal figures as of the end of the budget year June 30:
Revenue was $11,126,692. Expenditures were $11,046,240. Cash balance was $5,795,449.
So the JPA ended the fiscal year 2012-13 in the black. As long as billing is executed with diligence by the county Health Department, prospects for fiscal year 2013-14 should be good.
We remain skeptical that chiefs will surrender one inch of turf, but we hope they can come to agreement on a way forward that will reduce the cost per ambulance trip.