Officials satisfied with Gold Cross service thus far, continue to evaluate

Gold Cross Ambulance truck | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St George News

ST. GEORGE – It has been over six weeks since Salt Lake City-based Gold Cross Ambulance took over 911 paramedic transport service for the St. George area. Though the transition was initially a bumpy ride with some “glitches” along the way as described by St. George Mayor Daniel McArthur, things appear to have improved overall.

“There (are) always problems when you change,” McArthur said.

Bumpy transition

“We were thrown in pretty quickly,” said Tom Burckhard, Gold Cross’ director of southern operations.

In a ruling hotly contested by Dixie Ambulance, Bureau of Emergency Medcal Services Executive Director Dr. David Patton ruled in favor of Gold Cross over longtime local ambulance provider Dixie Ambulance. In the document that outlined the ruling, Gold Cross was to be awarded the 911-transport licenses covering the City of St. George on May 1, 2013. Due to loss of staff to Gold Cross, Dixie Ambulance closed its doors on the morning of April 14.

Of its current roster, Burckhard said a total of 11 paramedics are former Dixie Ambulance employees.

Training for Gold Cross’ new hires, a mixture of veteran paramedics and rookies, were scheduled to begin on April 15. Instead, their training became the real thing two weeks ahead of schedule.

With the changeover, Gold Cross was placed under a microscope. Some people, upset with what they perceived to be a political game that killed Dixie Ambulance, began to watch Gold Cross with increasing scrutiny.  It didn’t take long for the complaints to start piling up.

“You’ll hear stories,” McArthur said; and some complaints appeared to be more exaggerated than others, he said.

One particular complaint was brought to the attention of St. George News on April 18, five days after Gold Cross began operations.

A 911 call was made for an elderly woman who was experiencing a stroke. She was in the Tonaquint area and the ambulance sent to the scene passed right by the street it was meant to turn into. At the same time, Burckhard confirmed that another Gold Cross ambulance was passing by in the opposite direction to reach a new staging area. To the people on the street who made the 911 call, it looked as if the ambulance had not passed by once, but twice.

Despite missing the street the first time, the ambulance reached the scene within nine minutes, according to documentation provided by the St George Communications Center. The recognized industry standard response time for critical calls is nine minutes 59 seconds.

“I was made aware of the call that afternoon,” Burckhard said. Even if some of his personnel were still learning the layout of St. George, he said the incident never should have happened in the first place.  Gold Cross personnel involved in the incident “owned-up” to the mistake and the issue was resolved, Burckhard said.

When responding to calls, Burckhard said relying on a GPS unit is discouraged. The mapping system isn’t always up-to-date, nor does it always give the ambulance driver the quickest route to a call.

“We rely on the driver’s best judgment,” he said.

Despite the mishap involving the Tonaquint call, Burckhard said he felt the transition has gone pretty well overall. As for complaints, he said, “I have not heard anything after the first couple of weeks.”

McArthur: They’re improving and we’re watching

“I think it’s getting better,” McArthur said.

Still, the city is watching. At the city’s instruction St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker is overseeing the creation of a Standard of Care Agreement between Gold Cross and the City of St. George. The agreement is a list of protocols and standards that McArthur said will be “meaningful and measurable” so the city can gauge the performance of the ambulance service

Stoker said an initial draft of the agreement has been prepared and is currently being reviewed.

“We’ve got a ways to go,” McArthur said. “We’ll work out the kinks.”

As for Gold Cross, “they’ve got to get used to our system,” he said.

In the end, McArthur said the city wants the best service for the people of St. George possible, and the standard of care agreement, once finalized, will help see to that.

Washington City

Dixie Ambulance originally held the 911-paramdic transport licenses for Washington City and Santa Clara as well. After Dixie Ambulance closed, BEMS stepped in and made arrangements with other local ambulance providers to cover Dixie Ambulance’s former area.

Washington City has been split between Hurricane City Fire and Ambulance and Gold Cross. Hurricane covers Washington north of the Washington Parkway (Interstate 15 Exit 13), while Gold Cross covers all of Washington south.

So far things appear to be going smoothly, Washington City Manager Roger Carter said. As for any public worries about Hurricane City Fire and Ambulance and Gold Cross, “at this point,” he said, “we haven’t heard any real complaints.”

Ultimately Washington City will have the option to choose what it wants to do concerning future ambulance service, as the current set up is meant to be temporary until a more permanent solution is found.

“It’s really a great situation for us because it gives us a chance to evaluate how (the ambulance) service is.” Carter said. “Washington City will be analyzing what direction it wants to go.”

Burckhard said a Gold Cross ambulance is currently staged between St. George and Washington near Costco. Evidently, that area – which includes the Green Springs Drive-3050 East intersection – has proven to be one of the primary producers of emergency transports in the region, he said.

Santa Clara

Santa Clara is currently covered by Ivins City’s ambulance service, which also expanded its service to cover Snow Canyon State Park, Shivwits, Gunlock and Motoqua on an emergency basis, Ivins City Manager Dale Coulam said.

It has been estimated that the Ivins ambulance service gained an additional 105 possible transports with the addition of Santa Clara, with another 100 transports anticipated from the new Southern Utah Veterans Home.

Burckhard said Gold Cross will be acting as a backup for the Ivins ambulance, as well as Enterprise and Hurricane as needed. It will also be covering communities along state Route 18.

Integral part of the community

“We want to be an integral part of this community,” Burckhard said. “We can do something good here.”

He also said he believes Southern Utah can have “the best care system in the state,” even one rivaling or even surpassing that found in Salt Lake City as each area agency continues to work together for the benefit of the public.

Currently Gold Cross deploys five ambulances throughout the St. George area during the day and four at night. These vehicles are rearranged as needed when one or more ambulances respond to a call. Burckhard said this was done to ensure St. George remains adequately covered at all times.

Being a part of a larger company also allows Gold Cross to bring in additional manpower if necessary. This was done during the recent Ironman 70.3 event, Burckhard said. However, it is anticipated the local branch will be able to handle  next year’s event without outside help.

For individuals who may still cast a suspicious eye on Gold Cross in the wake of BEMS’s ruling, Burckhard said, “We want our actions to speak for themselves.”

Background

Gold Cross put in an application to become St. George’s exclusive 911-transport provider in 2011, challenging Dixie Ambulance for the state-issued license.

Gold Cross’s president, Mike Moffitt, said the application was put in because Dixie Ambulance was “woefully inadequate” in the service it provided, which ultimately put it in violation of state law. After two years and a week-long public hearing concerning the matter, BEMS ruled in favor of Gold Cross on March 27, 2013.

St. George News reporter Alexa Verdugo Morgan contributed to this article.

Related:

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

Gold Cross Ambulance truck | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St George News
Gold Cross Ambulance truck, St. George, Utah, May 15, 2013 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St George News

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21 Comments

  • Ron de Weijze May 29, 2013 at 8:06 am

    Maybe it is because I am from another country hoping one day to be one of yours, but I am baffled by the fact that everybody seems to act as if nothing is seriously wrong, as long as nothing wrong can be proven or will be, since this is typically something for in court (of appeal). It is as if the people of St George are not to be disturbed in their trust of their government, says the government without so many words. Nobody wants to lose face or stick his neck out, or at least it becomes increasingly clear who does and who won’t. It seems that by now everybody involves knows on which side his or her bread is buttered. At the higher echelons, bribing seems to be the way to get things done, while at the lower ones, it is simply a matter of threatening to take down a business, be it of Emergency Medical Services providers or of news providers. Even the news has now become a commodity. No due process, no independent confirmation necessary. Who said Truth will conquer everything? Baffling.

    • elliemae100 May 29, 2013 at 9:43 am

      A new company has stepped up and changed the culture of the EMS in Southern Utah. The article describes its service so far – including the fact that the owners of Dixie Ambulance simply quit rather than gracefully finishing out their contract in St. George. They also left the rest of the county without coverage, although the article reports that Gold Cross and the EMS of surrounding areas have been able to cover. I’m not sure what your comment is referring to – Dixie owns its inability to protect its corner on the market, yet your comment appears to blame the loss of their contract on the people of St. George’s inability to recognize that something is “seriously wrong.” There was something seriously wrong – and it has been corrected by a new, professional provider of EMS in St. George. I truly wish that Dixie had stepped up at some point, but they chose not to. What they allowed this all to happen without making any changes to their outdated and inadequate business model in itself is baffling.

    • Chris May 29, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      Ron, you said all in your first sentence. You are not from here, and therefore, cannot understand what really happened here with the so-called ambulance wars. Much of the “real” story has not been reported, or has merely been hinted about. DAS was not doing a good job, and a more capable and more ethical company has now replaced them. You obviously don’t know the “truth” in this matter, but you continue to deny your own ignorance. The state agency did its job admirably, and you and the other deniers need to come terms with it. Until then, you will continue to be baffled.

    • Ron de Weijze May 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      Elliemay and Chris, if the evaluation of Dixie Ambulance and the decision to drive them out of business were made democratically then you are right. Were they?

      • Chris May 29, 2013 at 5:47 pm

        Yes, they were. How can you even presume to know anything about this from the Netherlands? I think you are not being forthcoming about your own allegiances in this controversy. You must have some family member or close friend in the management of DAS. Is that true? Otherwise, why would you even care? This is not exactly national, much less international, news. Only we locals can understand what is going here. That clearly excludes you.

      • Chris May 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm

        Besides, it’s not really important whether the decision was made democratically, only that it was made to the benefit of the community. Those of us in the know are confident that it was. The most important fact is that both of the entities that had the closest working relationship with DAS, the city and the medical center, remained conspicuously silent throughout the proceedings. If either had been confident about the quality of service provided by DAS, we would have heard from them. Their silence spoke volumes. Jon Pike has been demonized by the DAS supporters when he has only been trying to do what is best for the city of St George.

        • Ron de Weijze May 29, 2013 at 7:29 pm

          Chris, my interest is an article on Corruption and democracy for The Ethics forum/Les Ateliers de l’éthique http://philevents.org/event/show/9912

        • Jade May 30, 2013 at 12:05 am

          Chris, I don’t think even a lot of locals know what exactly went on here, even more so, many could probably care less what ambulance serves the metro. I do feel however that too much emotion is put into local business that can no longer do the deed it takes to serve a growing, dynamic area, or just simply fails. Folks need to realize that this is business and politics as usual in the city…

  • Zeke May 29, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Your comments are right on the money! Also, good luck on becoming a USA citizen. I’ve noticed over the years how the local Spectrum doesn’t really participate in investigative journalism. Their paper is full of fluff and other local calendar items. Even major local events have info and names printed in the SLC Trib and Deseret news before the Spectrum goes out on a limb to print this. The STGnews website is by far and above what the local news is doing. No wonder they started charging to read news online.

    As a long time resident, it’s very interesting to watch how information gets passed around and what is allowed to be “news”. If there was some real investigative journalism going on in STG, people would be amazed as to what really goes on around here. If this “real” journalism was allowed to continue, maybe clandestine operations would slowly disappear or cease to be in operation as they are discovered and reported on. Over time maybe things would improve, but doesn’t seem to be the case for most City’s or governments.

    Maybe efforts have been made in the past i’m sure to investigate and report but were thwarted by the powers that be. Who knows? However, just like any other city I’m sure STG is full of surprising info if it were to be consistently uncovered and reported on. I would like to see what could be revealed if that effort could ever be accomplished for a long enough time. Keeping people honest is always a good thing.

    • Jade May 30, 2013 at 12:08 am

      STGnews doesn’t charge to read news online. Did you mean The Spec? That particular sentence is confusing.

    • Tyler May 30, 2013 at 12:24 am

      Zeke, being a long time resident that you claim to be, you should know damn well this news site is by far more investigative, deeper, unbiased and at times provacative unlike any other news source this area has ever seen before. The 11,000+ and rapidly growing FB page likes speaks in volumes.

  • William May 29, 2013 at 11:02 am

    This is a nice fluff piece. Nobody should be surprised by “transition” issues.

    Gold Cross will provide emergence ambulance service until they can no longer afford to do. The service they provide will save some lives, and not other lives. That is a factor determined by the training and dedication of the medical staff on sight, not by the name on the side of the ambulance.

    “I think it’s getting better” is actually a rather poor description of Gold Crosses getting accustomed to the community. The premise for the Department of Health’s decision to participate in the bankruptcy of Dixie Ambulance was based on the assurance that Gold Cross would provide consistently better service (or so the report asserts). Gold Cross “getting better” does not demonstrate that improved service. It demonstrates a local politician pandering.

    Therein lies the challenge. Was the decision to chase off an existing company in favor of the company represented by a bought and paid for state senator motivated by politicians sneaking around behind the scenes? Was the state’s decision seriously based on merit or was it based on political connection?

    There are literally dozens of ambulance services that could come to St. George. Each and every one of them on any given day could and would save lives. Gold Cross is not the gold standard in ambulance service. Are they adequate. Of Course! But adequacy was not publicly promised by elected representatives. What was promised was “better”. That has to be proven.

    What has been proven is that elected officials will sell their souls for a happy headline. They will face the public with a grin…and bear it. Yet, they will then operate deceitfully behind closed doors. That is in reality what is at issue with this issue.

    • elliemae100 May 30, 2013 at 3:59 am

      For starters, the term “getting better” should take into account that 1) they were thrown into the situation after Dixie Ambulance bailed early on the St George contract and walked away from the rest of the county, and 2) their response time was still within acceptable time frames and was better than that of Dixie Ambulance. The state report was chock full of Dixie’s failings, and I’m surprised that anyone could read that and believe that the company was viable. So far as your insinuation that Dixie Ambulance’s bankruptcy being (at least in part) the result of a pandering politician – did you read the report? Specifically, the parts that described the Millers and Randalls removing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the company, rendering it insolvent?

      – This entire issue has been overblown. Dixie Ambulance had ample time and opportunity to change in order to meet existing state laws (not new laws created specifically to hurt that company), but they chose not to change. Instead, they whined about the system being unfair, they asked the city council to intervene on their behalf and then criticized the council for not being aggressive enough in their defense. They decried the system, but chose not to meet the criteria that would have kept them in business. The owners of Dixie Ambulance weren’t local hardworking people – their employees were, but the owners themselves became wealthier due to the very business practices that drove them out of business in St. George. The hard working employees were forced to work 2nd and 3rd jobs in order to stay afloat. Gold Cross legally applied for the license and proved that they were the better company. As a lifelong resident of the area (who actually knows the owners of Dixie Ambulance), I kept an open mind during the process. However, Dixie’s owners personally attacked those people who spoke out against their business and now Michelle Randall is claiming that she’ll run for a seat on the city council. A personal vendetta should not be played out at the expense of the City.

      -I urge you to read the state’s report in its entirety, and then ask yourself why the state never shut down Dixie Ambulance. Dixie performed a public service by closing down. That the state would allow them the opportunity to continue to serve the surrounding areas was “in reality the issue with this issue.”

      -There’s no conspiracy, no shady politics. The better company won.

      • Knowoneknows May 30, 2013 at 12:19 pm

        What happened to gold cross providing superior service the first day? Aren’t gold crosses medics experienced enough to handle any crazy situation like all medics should? Oh that’s right, 911 service is different then a stable transport to the hospital. To bad that is all gold crosses employees have ever done. There would still be a little boy alive today if they were so superior.

      • William May 30, 2013 at 12:36 pm

        I see, now. I missed your fact that they were “thrown” into a situation. They were thrown into a situation which they instigated several years ago.

        What impresses me is that their entire company is designed to respond to situations which they are “thrown” into. Last I checked it is rather infrequent that an emergency is scheduled. About the only time someone can PLAN ON A MISTAKE is when an elected official decides its his place to take charge, apparently what happened with the state’s decision.

        I have read the report numerous times now. It is by far one of the weakest in content and rationale that I have ever read on any issue. It should have started with “I am writing this report because I have to, even though it is a waste of my time. I have no interest in fact, only in pleasing a state senator. giving him what he wants while he is in power.”

        Lastly, you make some assumptions based on your presumptions. This should not have been an issue between DAS and GC. It was turned into that by a zealous liberal elected official. At every turn elected officials and the public had the opportunity to outline their concerns to DAS. What they chose to do was hide behind political correctness and blindside a private company. If the city or state senate had problems with DAS not meeting certain standards why didn’t they make an issue of that to start with. In a word it was cowardice. Those “standards are being written now? Why not before the liberal state senator chose to drive his personal agenda of destruction.

        The problem, elliemae, is that you want this to be viewed as an institutional decision, rather than a personal desire by a politician using his elected position to push the institution of the state into taking the heat for his arrogance.

        There is one way to sort this out. A full fledged investigation by an independent ethics committee. Something the Utah State Senate have forcibly fought against the public on creating. Surprising, this is not about emergency response and community care and a non-responsive service provider, as some would have us believe. This is about a misuse of power by an elected official.

        • elliemae100 May 31, 2013 at 4:29 am

          For me, it wasn’t okay that Dixie wasn’t operating according to state law (2 EMT’s), wasn’t financially solvent, and didn’t keep appropriate maintenance records. It wasn’t okay that the company had 2 years to address the many concerns as to their operating procedures and chose not to do so. All that they could do was to present anecdotal evidence of their performance, which doesn’t cut it in the real world. Anyone who works in the medical field understand that documentation is paramount, and that providers must be able to provide quantifiable evidence of their performance. Instead of doing so, Dixie chose to turn its back on the entire community. It shuttered its doors two weeks early, leaving GC to scramble, and here you are attacking GC because they weren’t ready to take over when Dixie bailed.
          – I have read nothing that convinces me that Dixie Ambulance was operating in a professional manner, only that it expected that the contract it held was its Right. Dixie Ambulance only has itself to blame for losing the contract. Blame it on the liberals, blame it on the politicians, blame it on the rain… but please, don’t forget to blame Dixie for their lack of ability to perform up to standards.

          • William May 31, 2013 at 1:44 pm

            Nicely parsed words. I see that you have some understanding (and it appears from your writing style legal training). Wish we had the opportunity to discuss this issue in a civilized manner , face to face.
            Like a good attorney you have attempted to cloud the issue with innuendo. This entire issue began as as a discussion of the quality of service. What you, and lobbyists for Gold Cross (with the support of unduly influenced state officials) , have done is stray from that issue. You have turned you dissatisfaction of “recording keeping” into the main issue.
            I am unconvinced that a person bleeding in an ambulance thinks “I wonder if this paramedic has the proper paperwork completed”? Now, an attorney or a bureaucrat might do just that. Attorneys, politicians, and bureaucrats make their living capitalizing on meaningless nuances.
            So, please respond to the issue at hand hand, rather than seeking to criminalizing a private life saving organization (which has an excellent history of providing better than adequate service) over paperwork.
            Now, also, rather than us debating this in a forum that inherently does the exact thing which bothers you about Dixie Ambulance (not providing adequate documentation and response) let’s get together as civilized folks where we can discuss this. Feel free to bring your attorney. If we talk I am quite certain we may reach a reasonable persons agreement about the issues.

  • Balzo Flahnerty May 29, 2013 at 11:36 am

    There is absolutely no difference in what goes on in local politics vs what goes on in politics in other areas. The only difference is that there are a many more hypocrites here than in most places.

  • Tyler May 30, 2013 at 12:19 am

    Well since I simply don’t know what to believe with all the bias on both sides (as in most situations), I will add that I can appreciate the fact that Gold Cross ambulances actually blare the sirens through ANY and ALL streets and neighborhoods when rushing to a scene unlike DAS. Countless times when I’d have my music up in the car, or not, I’d look to my rearview to see DAS vehicle on my a$$ outta no where with only the lights flashing and no siren! An emergency is an emergency, and no ambulance service should be worried about breaking the peace and silence for a few seconds of noise in any neighborhood, regardless of what time is when a crisis is going on.

    • Big Don May 30, 2013 at 8:55 am

      You need to be checking your rear view mirror more then.

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