Public hearing to discuss ambulance service in St. George; Dixie Ambulance receives negative audit

ST. GEORGE – A public hearing will be held on Monday to determine the future of ambulance service in St. George. The contest for the contract is between Salt Lake City-based Gold Cross Ambulance and local, longtime provider Dixie Ambulance Service.

The challenge and possible result

In June 2011, Gold Cross submitted an application to the Utah Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and Preparedness to take over 911 ambulance services in the St. George area, which Dixie Ambulance has serviced for the last 30 years. In order to take over the state license/contract for the area, Gold Cross must prove that Dixie Ambulance is not meeting state requirements.

Mike Moffitt, president of Gold Cross Ambulance, told St. George News in a 2011 interview that his company had analyzed the needs of St. George, and determined Dixie Ambulance could no longer adequately serve the needs of the community. He said Dixie Ambulance did not have enough ambulances and staff on hand, and that its response times to emergencies were not the best.

Mike Miller, general manager of Dixie Ambulance, said the company’s average time-response was well within the limit recommended by the state. He also touted the qualifications of his staff and their dedication to their jobs. “We worry first about the patient and proper care. That is our first and foremost priority,” he said. “These people love what they do.”

If the state approves Gold Cross’s bid for St. George, Dixie Ambulance will cease to exist. This is due to the way Utah assigns 911 emergency transport provider contracts – only one ambulance service per a specific geographic region. The state also regulates how much an ambulance service can charge, and subcontracting services is not allowed.  Dixie Ambulance may share a similar fate to that experienced by Southwest Ambulance in Salt Lake City in 2009.

Gold Cross’s application has been in review since it was turned in to the state. During that time, Miller said there have been various hearings, leading up to the public hearing to be held at the Best Western Abbey Inn in St. George Monday from 6-8 p.m.

In the end, Utah allows a municipality to choose which ambulance service it wants as long as certain criteria are met. However, Marc Mortensen, City of St. George assistant city manager, said the city would defer to the expertise of the state in “evaluating which ambulance service will provide the highest service.”

Miller said Dixie Ambulance has a good relationship with the City of St. George, and there have been “no sanctions from the state or the city” concerning the company’s service.

While questions of how Dixie Ambulance and Gold Cross compare will be brought up in the hearing, so will a recent audit of Dixie Ambulance performed by the state for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

The audit

Paul Patrick, director of the Bureau of Emergency Services and Preparedness, sent a letter to Dixie Ambulance outlining that an audit has determined the ambulance service has not correctly used grant funds issued by the state. State law requires grant money be spent within the fiscal year it is issued. According to the audit, Dixie Ambulance spent the funds at issue after June 30, the grant deadline. It also states the company didn’t pay amounts owed on invoices issued by the state.

As a result, the state has ordered DAS return $26,000 – a 100 percent return of money granted for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

“I am also suspending the fiscal year 2013 per capita grant … (and) also suspending the 2013 competitive grant awards to Dixie Ambulance until further review by the Grant Subcommittee and EMS Committee,” Patrick wrote in the letter.

If Dixie Ambulance does not comply with the state’s order, Patrick said it could result in the agency losing its license.

Patrick told St. George News that it is rare for an audit to come back with discrepancies, and that of all the agencies audited, Dixie Ambulance was the only one that did. “This is the first time we’ve found (any problems),” he said. “The rest all came back with no issues.”

Due to budget cuts, Patrick said audits of EMS agencies had been suspended for a long while, and were only recently reinstated.

As to the audit being close to the time of the public hearing, he said it was an unfortunate coincidence.

“This was separate,” he said. “It has nothing to do with (the hearing).”

“We audit a percentage of (random) EMS agencies every year,” Patrick said, and Dixie Ambulance Service just happened to fall into the mix. The audit itself was not generated by a specific complaint. However, as the use of finances will be a matter for review in the hearing, he said it is likely the audit will be brought up.

Dixie Ambulance Service has appealed the audit’s findings, Patrick said, and a review will be held sometime in January 2013.

Miller declined to comment concerning the upcoming hearing or the audit.

Event details and contact information

Date: Dec. 3

Time: 6-8 p.m.

Location: Best Western Abbey Inn, 1129 S. Bluff Street, St. George

Related posts:

Perspectives: Making sense of the ambulance war

Ambulance war scapegoat? St. George Dispatch responds to hearing testimony

Ambulance war: Broken system, dispatch delays? Decision pending

Ambulance war: Contest for territory raises solvency, staffing issues at hearing

Public support for Dixie Ambulance floods hearing

Dixie Ambulance Voices its Opinion on Gold Cross’ Application; Gold Cross Says System is Broken

 

Letter to the Editor: Consider the Cost

Gold Cross Could Replace Dixie Ambulance if Application is Approved

Gold Cross Submits Application to Provide 911 Ambulance Services in St. George

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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6 Comments

  • ross November 29, 2012 at 1:04 am

    I know first hand how great Dixie ambulance treats us as patients! I WOULD NOT trust my life to that so called death crew gold cross! It would be a disgrace to are friends and familys to allow gold cross in our town! Help save life’s keep Dixie ambulance!

  • Sam B. November 29, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Dixie ambulance is a joke. The employees are forced to use substandard equipment and are grossly underpaid. The way employees are forced to respond to calls is by using their personal IPhones or using maps in the back of the phone book because the company is too cheap to put navigation systems in the ambulances. The employees that work there are pretty competent, but unfortunately Dixie has a monopoly in this area. The national avg for a paramedic’s salary is 65,000 annually. Dixie pays $11.23 per hr. I am a believer in the free market, if you don’t like your job quit and get another one, unfortunately for Dixie employees there is not another one. You have people who have spent thousands of dollars and years of there life on becoming a paramedic to make just above minimum wage with no benefits. I do not know much about gold cross but I do not believe that it is possible to do worse than Dixie ambulance.

    • Marcus December 6, 2012 at 11:08 pm

      Right on Sam B, —- join me on my Facebook

  • J. Robertson November 29, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    After the elections have quieted down, the ‘good old boys’ have their hands out again. Reminds me of the golf course operational change in Hurricane a while back.

  • Truth Seeker December 11, 2012 at 7:52 am

    To Sam B.: I hope you realize that the people who choose to work for Dixie Ambulance Service are well aware of the wages in which they make. They are adult men and women who are free to choose to work there if they please. No body is twisting arms. Pay is not everything to these people, however patient care is.

  • Ron October 3, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    does anybody know if Dixie Ambulance every paid back the misused grant funds? Is this the real reason Dixie Ambulance lost their license?

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