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Ceres Fire working toward regional EMS Consortium
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Ceres Fire Department officials are working with other agencies in Stanislaus County on a new EMS (Emergency Medical Service) Consortium.

The ambulance provider agreement is up for renewal. According to Ceres Fire Chief Bryan Nicholes, fire departments throughout the county "thought it's time we gave our input on that," including cost recovery.

"One agency at a time really doesn't have the ability to garner foothold so we put together a county consortium," said Nicholes.

The idea is to build a proactive and successful public-private partnership through a Stanislaus County Fire EMS Consortium that represents all 16 fire departments in the county. Modesto Regional Fire Authority contracted with consultant Sheldon Gilbert of Innovative Partnership Solutions to form the consortium with all others joining in. It includes all EMS coordinators and managers, fire chiefs from all 16 departments and labor representatives.

The goal of the consortium is to increase patient care, and ensures an integrated and sustainable EMS system for the future.

"This is kind of our foot in the door to be able to do a private-public joint venture with the ambulance companies," said Nicholes. "Instead of fire kind of doing their own thing and the medical field doing their own thing, it gives an opportunity to kind of meld those two together because we're really doing the same thing out there protecting lives and people."

The consortium is also out to set the value and worth of the fire based EMS, establish consistent fire responder delivery levels, identify reimbursement and revenue opportunities and possible collaboration with dispatch and communication.

Currently if a Ceres resident calls 911 from a house phone for an ambulance, the call is routed to Ceres Police Department and then transferred to the ambulance company and the call is recreated by county dispatch "so there is kind of a time delay that is built into the system," said Nicholes. "We're looking to try to eliminate that ... in the long run I think it will work out better for everyone."

The consortium has a six-month window to negotiate with ambulance companies before it makes its way to the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors.
"We don't want to get stuck analyzing this thing indefinitely," said Nicholes.

Nicholes said departments are hoping the consortium results in fire departments being able to recover some costs of supplies through fees already being collected by private providers "and just channel some of that money back into the fire service that's actually doing these calls on a daily basis."

Ceres Fire responds to 14 to 27 calls for service a day, of which 70 percent are medical aid.

"We're using supplies and spending supplies, those types of things. We're just looking for a mechanism in this day and age to recoup some of those costs."

Ceres resident and former firefighter Len Shepherd stated at the July 22 City Council meeting that he's glad to see the consortium work towards their goals. He said fire engines are typically the first on the scene to triage patients before the ambulance arrives and that firefighters get none of the recognition.

"They are trained professionals, trained as first responders and trained in triaging," said Shepherd. "I'm glad to see that the fire service in Stanislaus County is stepping up and taking the bull by the horns and getting the fire service really involved as a group."