OC firefighters pitch ambulance proposal

Oil City officials had their first chance to listen to specifics about the fire department’s idea of running an ambulance service on Thursday.

Capt. Mark Hicks addressed city leaders following the city council meeting to provide them with a general overview of what operating an ambulance service would entail.

Hicks said there is a need for such a service in the area because of the growing elderly population, the current heroin epidemic, the fact there is only one private ambulance service providing emergency response to Oil City and that there is the potential for non-tax-based income.

As of Oct. 25, Hicks said the department has had 1,310 medical responses, and 982 of those could be billable.

Hicks presented two separate estimates from billing companies and the revenues were pegged between $285,924.30 and $402,196.57.

Additional revenues could come in the form of membership drives, offering services such as confined space rescue to private organizations or through grants.

Hicks said the estimated total start-up cost for the ambulance service is more than $113,000 when factoring in $51,955.44 for a new ambulance payment, $10,000-15,000 for a used unit to serve as a backup, $2,200 for additional equipment, $4,226 for vehicle insurance and $40,000 for workers insurance.

Other expenses could come in the form of malpractice liability insurance.

Hicks said the department is paid $750 a month by Community Ambulance Service to provide advanced life support services to patients.

The only thing the department isn’t able to do right now that an ambulance service does is transport patients to a medical facility.

Councilman Ron Gustafson expressed concern about competing against Community Ambulance Service if the city decided to move forward with a service of its own.

Hicks said he doesn’t look at it as competition, but rather an opportunity to work together and better serve the area.

“I think the two could coincide,” he said. “There is a need for another ambulance service.”‘

Hicks said although it would be an unpopular idea within the community, it would be necessary to only operate one station if the department is able to start an ambulance service.

City manager Mark Schroyer then asked Hicks if that meant the department will close the North Side station to do that.

Hicks replied by saying that would likely be the case, but it could also consider operating only out of the North Side station instead.

“There’s all kinds of options,” Hicks said.

Schroyer said city council and other officials will now take some time to absorb the information presented by Hicks before moving forward.

Gustafson said he would be in favor of having another meeting to discuss the topic further and he also said he would like to hear Community Ambulance’s thoughts on the idea.