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GVFD ironing out issues to start ambulance service

Green Valley Fire District is continuing efforts to establish its own ambulance service roughly a year after filing an application with the state.

Since then, Scottsdale-based Rural/Metro and its Southwest Ambulance service — which contracts with GVFD — was acquired by medical-transport giant AMR. That company, based in Colorado, filed an objection to the request in January and a hearing is set for August.

Current ambulance service hasn’t been affected, and officials don’t expect it to be, GVFD Chief Chuck Wunder said.

GVFD is asking a judge for a 60-day stay in which to reach resolution, delaying the August hearing. Without elaborating, Wunder said several sticking points have been addressed with AMR and that “bigger hurdle items” have been resolved, but that there are still details to be ironed out.

“We got through some pretty tough stuff,” he said.

The district joined other firefighting agencies in Arizona in applying to operate its own ambulances as back-up plan after Rural/Metro Corp’s bankruptcy filing in 2013. Although R/M recovered, fire districts were nervous. Providing its own service would also yield a new revenue stream, which many districts found themselves needing after Proposition 117 passed in 2012, limiting what they can levy from property taxes.

GVFD’s board plans to meet in executive session this morning to discuss status of its Certificate of Necessity (CON) request filed with the state health department in mid-2015. Officials are looking for a similar arrangement to what it proposed with R/M-Southwest before AMR entered the picture, wherein GVFD would respond to serious, potentially life-threatening and traffic-related calls, and the other provider, non-critical, basic life support ones such as simple fractures and minor burns.

If the stay is granted, Wunder said he’s optimistic a resolution can be reached soon, within 60 to 90 days.

“I’m hopeful we’ll get something here more concrete,” he said.

If an agreement is reached between the two entities, the request returns to the state Department of Health Services for review.

In working with the company, “were now understanding each other’s needs and concerns,” Wunder said. Still, several key facets are still fluid, and officials hope to shore-up those particulars within the next several weeks.

At the time of the merger with AMR, R/M’s operations generate annual revenue of about $590 million. Its parent company Envision Healthcare Holdings expects to realize efficiencies of $25 to $28 million through 2017 from the integration, according to a company notice issued Oct. 28, 2015. R/M is now part of AMR’s network of ground ambulances in 2,100 communities in 40 states and the District of Columbia, and air ambulance services throughout the world. AMR president and CEO Edward Van Horne previously worked for Rural/Metro.

Kitty Bottemiller | 547-9732