City weighs own ambulance contract

Vancouver officials want more control over service levels

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Since 1992, Vancouver has contracted with Emergency Medical Services District 2 for ambulance services, and the current contract expires next year. On March 4, the Vancouver City Council said it was interested in a new arrangement.

The Board of Clark County Commissioners is the governing body of EMS District 2, and in 1992, the city only accounted for 21 percent of EMS District 2's population. Now, the city accounts for 64 percent of EMS District 2's population and 70 percent of service calls, and councilors are concerned that they don't have any authority over the district. Councilors told Vancouver Fire Chief Joe Molina to plan on letting the contract with EMS District 2 expire and then the city could contract directly with a private ambulance company. Currently American Medical Response has the contract for EMS District 2, and they would be able to bid.

Councilors said that while the city doesn't pay for ambulance services -- AMR gets money from user fees, and Medicare payments, which make up approximately 40 percent of its funding -- they would like to work directly with the ambulance company. EMS District 2 could enter into an agreement with the city, which would mean the same ambulance company would cover most of the county. The only change would be that the Vancouver City Council, and not the Clark County commissioners, would be in charge of the city service area. Having sole governance, Molina told the council, would maximize the city's flexibility regarding service levels and facilitate a close relationship with the ambulance service provider.

Currently, AMR responds to all calls in the county except in Camas and Washougal and the area serviced by North Country EMS.