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GVFD nurse practitioner program sees 170 patients

The nurse practitioner program launched by Green Valley Fire District last March to help save on health-care costs with non-emergency treatment saw nearly 170 patients through mid-December.

Four part-time nurse practitioners just began on the job, replacing Cynthia “Cigi” Smith, the program’s first NP, who left for a new job. They provide coverage between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. five days a week, although the days vary.

“This is very exciting for us as it is pretty much a ‘reset’ for the program as we go forward,” said district Community Services Chief Katie Sayre. “Starting a medical practice is time-consuming and very complicated, so we are optimistic about completing the credentialing process soon for our new staff and increasing our call volume through appointments or triage from emergency crews.”
The NPs visit patients at home to provide urgent medical care for conditions such as moderate back pain, mild respiratory problems, dehydration, diarrhea, minor wound infections, simple fractures and sprains, mild skin burns, rashes, cuts requiring stitches, tests for strep, flu and other illnesses, to bridge the gap until the patient can see their own physician. The NPs also will help manage a patient’s medication and prescriptions.

Payments from insurance providers are starting to come in now that licensing and other requirements are satisfied to treat patients on Medicare; credentialing is underway with AHCCCS and other insurance plans, Sayre said.

“We’re now set up for a revenue stream and everything’s really positive. We think it’s going in a good direction. It will make money, but will we make enough (to sustain it)” is still unknown.

The district set aside $120,000 to get the program up, running and staffed, including research and development, legalities and several months’ pay for the practitioners. Plans are to continue the program if it is financially feasible.

Formally known as the Fire-Based Urgent Medical Services Program, the practice is believed to be the first of its kind nationwide, Sayre said when the program began.

A hospital trip and ER visit can run about $2,100 to the nearest Tucson hospital, St. Mary’s, 30 miles from Green Valley, counting an emergency room provider fee of $150 or so, Sayre said when the program was in the idea stage. Home treatment by an NP runs about $300.

Studies by district Battalion Chief Dan Modrzejewski showed that as many as 25 percent of residents who call 911 for medical aid didn’t require emergency care, but with no other option, would often end up being transported to Tucson hospitals, an unnecessary and costly expense. Many weren’t willing, or couldn’t get to their primary care physician or urgent care due to financial, mobility or other issues but did call 911. The program began before Green Valley Hospital opened last spring.

District residents can arrange a visit through the NP Hotline at 520-428-0550. The NPs are Lynn Musick, John Modrzejewski, Adrianne Shields and Carrie Van Curan.

Kitty Bottemiller | 547-9732