Vancouver to administer ambulance contract for District 2

County agrees to change because bulk of users live in city

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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The Vancouver City Council will administer the ambulance contract for Emergency Services District 2 instead of the Clark County commissioners, the council confirmed Monday.

Vancouver residents constitute the largest user of services in the district, which includes most of the county except Camas and Washougal and communities served by North Country EMS.

As Vancouver has grown, it makes sense for the city to administer the ambulance contract, Vancouver Fire Chief Joe Molina said Monday during a council workshop.

County commissioners have served as the governing board of the district since it formed in the early 1990s.

Commissioners gave their OK this month, in a letter to the council acknowledging that the city’s analysis of the district made it clear a single system “will continue to provide the efficiency and continuity of service our citizens have come to rely on and appreciate.”

The rest of EMS District 2 — the cities of Ridgefield, Battle Ground, La Center and Woodland, and unincorporated areas — will receive ambulance services through an interlocal agreement administered by the city of Vancouver. A single vendor will still respond to all emergency calls throughout the district.

One benefit of the city's administering the contract, Molina said, will be that the ambulance provider will have to follow the city’s response protocol, which the fire department, as the first responder to the most urgent calls, has been refining.

He said residents shouldn’t notice a difference, as contractual response times aren’t anticipated to change.

“Hopefully, (the service) will be better,” he said.

The change may result in a second ambulance vendor's being awarded a contract for nonemergency calls, Molina said. American Medical Response, for example, has had the contract since the district formed and has had exclusive rights to emergency and nonemergency calls. Under the city’s governance, a second vendor may bid for nonemergency calls, such as ones from assisted living facilities that aren’t urgent or other calls that don’t come through 911.

The change regarding the ambulance contract does not dissolve EMS District 2, or mean commissioners are no longer its governing board. Other members of the district will still use the agency to administer the interlocal agreement with the city of Vancouver for ambulance services.

Had county commissioners not agreed to let the city take over the contract, they would have been in a difficult spot trying to attract ambulance service providers. Because of the large coverage area, an analysis by Fitch and Associates showed that if Vancouver broke away from EMS District 2, any provider would be operating at a net loss of at least $4.8 million a year.

In 2011-12, AMR had 26,723 emergency transports and 6,638 nonemergency transports in EMS District 2, according to a council presentation. Its net profit was $822,048.