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