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Fee Considered For Calif. Nursing Facility Non-Emergency Calls

UPLAND - The city may soon charge skilled nursing facilities for making what turn out to be non-emergency 9-1-1 calls.

Over the past year, five facilities in the city's southeast quadrant have generated 487 incidents, of which only 146 were actual emergencies.

The facilities are all within the Fire Station 1's district resulting in longer response times to real emergencies in the city, said Fire Chief Michael Antonucci.

"What this is doing is making other engine companies come into Station 1 area, which is elongating our response time to emergency calls," Antonucci said.

The City Council will hold a public hearing on Feb. 14 before considering the implementation of an ordinance that will seek reimbursement for the non-emergency calls.

The rate is about $490 per hour and will be billed to the nursing facilities, not the patients.

The purpose of implementing the fee is not to increase revenue, but to deter the facilities from making the non-emergency calls, Antonucci said.

The ambulance company charges for its services, but the fire department does not. When the calls are made a fire engine is sent to the location as well as an ambulance.

"We'll both charge, so it's a double fee if it's not a true emergency," Councilman Ken Willis said. "But if it's a true emergency the city will not charge."

Only 30 percent of the 487 calls made were deemed actual emergencies, which means there was a need for advanced life support intervention and paramedic follow-up to the hospital. If paramedics are called by transport providers for assistance, there will be no fee.

The 70 percent of calls that were considered non-emergency because the patent did not require transport.

The facilities are asked to use private ambulance providers for non-emergency basic life support transport to hospitalss, according to the city staff report.

"This is just something that is apparently being done in a few other communities where the fire department is being used as a free ride to just transport somebody somewhere," said Willis, who sits on the Police and Fire Committee.

Calls have increased by 22 percent over the past year, according to the staff report.

Antonucci said he does not know why the non-emergency calls are made, but speculates a nursing shortage and unwillingness to wait for a transfer ambulance may have led to the increase.

There will be two readings of the ordinance during council meetings prior to its final adoption.

Antonucci said he will meet with the officials at the nursing facilities to discuss the charge after the first reading.

"It has been brought up to them," he said.



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