July 29, 2008

County OKs 3-Year Deal With Life Ambulance

By Erica Molina Johnson, El Paso Times, Texas

Jul. 29--EL PASO -- Ambulance service to patients in the county will continue to be provided by Life Ambulance as it has been for more than 20 years, Commissioners Court decided Monday.

After months of disagreements about renegotiating with the company, the court agreed to sign a three-year contract that will include $99,000 to fund a fifth ambulance station for the county in Montana Vista.

The court decided to move forward with the renegotiation after receiving updates from the county attorney's office and county auditor's office on contract negotiations and the company's financial records.

"We discovered they are not making a profit off of our funding," Commissioner Vero nica Escobar said. "We are doing exactly what that money is intended to do, which is get service out to the outlying areas."

Commissioner Miguel Te ran said the contract is beneficial to the company despite the lack of profit because it allows its employees to get experience in emergency situations. Much of its business within the city limits is transferring patients between hospitals and other health-care facilities.

"I think it's the best deal we have," Teran said. "If they weren't available, we'd probably be paying through the nose."

Life Ambulance now has 21 units locally, four in the county and 17 in the city. The city-stationed ambulances often service county calls.

Monday's action will cause one ambulance from its city operations to shift its location to Montana Vista, said Rachel Harricksingh,

president of Life Ambulance.

After the shift, the company will have ambulances stationed in Montana Vista, Fabens, Horizon City, Socorro and Canutillo.

Montana Vista resident Heriberto Nevarez said a logical place to station the ambulance would be at the Montana Vista Fire Department.

"I guess it would come in very handy when somebody needs the service," he said. "It's really cool."

Escobar said the new contract will include safeguards such as allowing the county to look at the company's finances regularly.

She previously opposed renegotiating with the company in favor of opening up the bid process to all pros pective service providers, but said updates on Monday allowed her to support the contract.

She said she hopes other companies will competitively bid for the contract when it expires.

Erica Molina Johnson may be reached at [email protected]; 546-6132.

Other action Also on Monday, Commissioners Court: --Postponed renewing a contract with El Paso Mental Health Mental Retardation for emergency psychiatric services in El"Paso.

--Authorized a permanent recycling program at the county.


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