Delaware County Emergency Medical Services seeks additional funding
After putting a few major purchases on hold in recent years, the Delaware County Emergency Medical Services (DCEMS) is hoping to play catch up in 2013.
DCEMS is hoping to purchase five new vehicles, 11 cardiac monitor and five automatic external defibrillators in the coming year, chief Rob Farmer said at budget hearings Tuesday.
The costs of those purchases, along with rising personnel costs due to a negotiated union contract, led Farmer to ask the Delaware County commissioners for a 16.6 percent increase in his 2013 budget.
Farmer is asking that his department receive $11.5 million, up from the $9.9 million DCEMS was appropriated in 2012.
“The biggest thing is the capital expenditures,” Farmer said of the requested increase in funding.
The cardiac monitors are at the end of their lifespan, according to Farmer. The average life expectancy for that equipment is seven to 10 years, and DCEMS has some that are much older than that, and in the next two years, it will no longer be possible to purchase new replacements parts.
“This is not the first time that I have asked for them,” he said. “However, it has never gotten to this point.”
According to Farmer, the devices are key to early detection of a heart attack.
“This device is a key element in that,” he said.
To replace each of the devices would cost between $260,000 and $320,000, according to Farmer, who said that he has looked into leasing the equipment or purchasing them over a longer period of time.
But after learning of their importance in the field, commissioner Ken O’Brien said that he would support purchasing them all at once.
“It seems like an appropriate expense,” he said.
Commissioner Dennis Stapleton asked Farmer if he had looked at the possibility of boosting the department’s revenue by transitioning to a “soft billing” model. Stapleton said that he was not advocating for such a model, but was simply interested on the economic impact it would have.
According to Farmer, a billing company ran the numbers a couple of years ago and found that it would generate millions of dollars, although he was unsure of the exact dollar figure.
However, he said he would be hesitant to move in that direction without other transport agencies in the county following suit.
“There is a belief that if the county were to start billing, the other transport agencies in the county would use that against us,” Farmer said.
Delaware County Administrator Tim Hansley said that a “soft billing” model would not impact the county’s taxpayers. Those with health insurance would be sent a bill to be forwarded to their insurance company, which would cover the costs. Uninsured residents would also be sent a bill, but the county would not recoup any money.
“If the insurance company doesn’t pay it, we don’t collect it,” Hansley said.
The DCEMS’ budget request includes $6.7 million in salary, including an estimated $2.5 million in overtime costs; $2.8 million in benefits; more than $179,000 in materials and supplies; and $1.1 million in services and charges.