Garfield County hospitals support transport services bid | AspenTimes.com

Garfield County hospitals support transport services bid

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GARFIELD COUNTY – The two hospitals in Garfield County want the county to issue an “inter-facility transport” (IFT) license for the Transcare ambulance service, to fill the gap being left by the demise of the West Care ambulance service headquartered in Silt.

Transcare, based in Montrose, has offered to take over the IFT function as of Jan. 1, which is when West Care will end that part of its ambulance business.

West Care also is giving up its 911 emergency medical services, which are to be taken on by the Burning Mountains Fire Protection District as of July 2010 or so.

According to representatives of Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs and the Grand River Medical Center in Rifle, Transcare will provide the IFT service at a price considerably lower than other organizations the two hospitals have contacted.

A hearing on the proposed license will be held before the Garfield County commissioners on Dec. 14.

Officials from the hospitals and Transcare appeared before the county commissioners on Dec. 7, expecting the hearing to be held that day.

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Due to what Commissioner Tresi Houpt called “a lack of communication” among county officials, the formal hearing was delayed, although the matter was discussed anyway.

Valley View spokeswoman Deb Wiepking explained that talks among the hospitals and other agencies began in June 2008, when it was became apparent that West Care would be discontinuing both aspects of its services as of 2010.

Inter-facility transport, she said, is the system for getting patients from one facility to another in search of “a higher level of care,” where 911 emergency medical care mainly involves ambulance service to a home or business on an emergency basis.

The IFT service, Wiepking said, must be available for transport 24 hours a day, seven days a week; guarantee that transport requests get equal priority with 911 emergency calls; have licensed nurses available to ride in the ambulance; and offer a “cost-effective” service that facilities can afford.

Noting that the two hospitals had been paying roughly $120,000 per year on IFT services with West Care, Wiepking said that existing, nearby regional ambulance services could take on the IFT function for Garfield County.

But those organizations, she said, had indicated it would cost between $850,000 and $1 million per year, in part because of a need for the hospital to finance the purchase of new equipment and vehicles.

Transcare, Wiepking told the Post Independent, could do the job at a price tag similar to the amounts the hospitals have been paying to West Care.

Allen Hughes, CEO of Transcare, agreed, explaining that his company specializes in “critical care transport.” Transcare, he said, does no 911 emergency-response work in Montrose, and will not do any in Garfield County.

Transcare does provide back up to the local 911 ambulance services in two other Colorado communities where it operates – Rocky Ford and Lamar – but only if requested and only if the incident somehow exceeds the capabilities of the 911 service.

jcolson@postindependent.com