The Idaho Falls Emergency Medical Service is increasing its charges to Jefferson County by approximately 25 percent due to an increase in call volume in the county.
Idaho Falls Fire Chief Duane Nelson informed the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners May 28 that the 25 person increase equals an additional $38,688 per year bringing the county’s total contractual amount to $193,440. Commissioner Scott Hancock said it would roughly be a $16,000 increase per month.
“There is a significant increase this year,” Nelson said. “As population growth happens, so does the need for EMS services which we are feeling right now.”
Nelson indicated that the department responded to 1,127 calls in Jefferson County, which accounted for roughly one tenth of the department’s total call volume. He said on average three ambulances respond to Jefferson County per day. If the department charged per ambulance, per day, it would equate to roughly $300,000 per year.
“We don’t expect the county to pick up all of those costs in one year,” Nelson said. “We don’t expect them to ever pick up that cost.”
This year Nelson said they are on track to exceed last year’s calls by 50 to 70 and that it will likely continue to increase as Jefferson County’s population continues to rise. He said last year the department collected $334,000 in user fees.
“That number is growing obviously,” he said.
Nelson noted that the department believes they can continue to provide the same level of service to Jefferson County residents with a 25 percent increase.
“We look forward to providing the best possible service to your residents under this contract,” Nelson said.
The commissioners said they will discuss the increase in more detail at a later date.
In January, Central Fire District Commissioners Mike Miller, Jim Deuel and Roger Anderson met with the commissioners to inform them that it may be time that the county consider establishing an ambulance district in the area to cut down on the response time.
Deuel said on a good day, the average time it takes for Idaho Falls to respond to a call is roughly 15 minutes, but is often longer than that. By the county having its own district, response times would be cut down.
As opposed to the county having a private ambulance service cover the county, Anderson said Central Fire would like to be involved. Miller indicated that Roberts Fire District is a separate district, but they would also like to be involved in the proposed ambulance district.
If the district is formed, Anderson said to further reduce response times, ambulances would need to be stationed in multiple locations throughout the county. For example he alluded to one being in Menan and another in Rigby to cover both sides. West Jefferson has its own ambulance district.
In order to approve an ambulance district, the commissioners would need to have at least 50 signatures from county residents indicating that they are in favor of the district, it would need to be published three times and there would need to be a vote from the county commissioners approving it.
After the meeting Anderson suggested that they form a committee consisting of Central Fire commissioners, county commissioners and county residents to see what the county wants and to begin looking into the cost of forming a district.
As of May 28, they were still collecting cost estimates.
Nelson said it costs the district roughly $600,000 to run an ambulance 24/7 for a whole year.