Ambulance inflation: New ambulance rates proposed for Truckee | SierraSun.com

Ambulance inflation: New ambulance rates proposed for Truckee

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunWith rate increases pending it's going to cost a little more for the Truckee Fire Protection District paramedics to bring this gurney to your door. Capitan Larry Ochoa and Firefighter Matt Parkhurst loaded up the wagon Wednesday at the Truckee Fire Station.

An ambulance ride may cost about $90 more in Truckee soon as the fire district seeks to raise rates to keep up with costs.

Like everyone else, the ambulance arm of the Truckee Fire Protection District has to contend with rising fuel and other costs while continuing to provide the vital service, according to district officials.

A complex series of events are set in motion when someone dials 911 for a medical emergency in the Truckee-Tahoe area, said Chuck Thomas, assistant fire marshall for the Truckee Fire Protection District.

First, the emergency command center takes the call and helps the caller through first aid until help arrives, he said.

Then an ambulance and fire engine respond, as they did 1,777 times in 2007 for Truckee, Thomas said.

Emergency medical calls make up 75 to 80 percent of North Tahoe Fire Protection District’s total call volume, said Duane Whitelaw, fire chief for that district.

Recommended Stories For You

A few people are treated and released on scene ” about 250 in 2007 for Truckee ” but the rest get transported to Tahoe Forest Hospital, Incline Village Community Hospital, or Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe.

And as this is happening in the field, other ambulances and engines are shifting around between stations to fill in, Thomas said, keeping each area of Truckee, North Lake Tahoe, and Donner Summit ready for the next emergency.

All the ambulances ” eight in Truckee and seven for North Tahoe ” can be staffed by any firefighter, all of whom are certified as paramedics at both districts.

“We believe a well-rounded firefighter provides better service,” said Truckee Fire Chief Bryce Keller.

“We’re a one-stop-shop for water rescue, structure fire, or when grandma hurts her ankle on the stairs,” Thomas said.

Whitelaw said his paramedics will even go out with the Coast Guard or Placer County Sheriff’s to respond to a medical emergency in the middle of Lake Tahoe.

And because they respond to emergencies outside their respective fire districts, it’s all paid for by service fees rather than taxes, Keller said.

“We as a public agency are trying to defray the cost to the public versus making a profit on a call,” Keller said.

Truckee Fire Protection is proposing an increase for advanced life support services ” treatment rendered by paramedics in an ambulance ” from $823.28 to $913.84.

Currently the base rate for the same ambulance ride in North Tahoe goes for $906, and a proposed change would put the figure at $850 for Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District.

By comparison, American Medical Response, a private ambulance company, charges $1,169.41 in western Placer County.

The new rates will be back before the Truckee Fire Protection District’s board in September, Keller said.