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NCPFD extends agreement for BLS ambulance in Vista

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The agreement in which the North County Fire Protection District stations and staffs a basic life support ambulance in Vista has been extended for another 12 months.

The NCFPD board voted 5-0 Tuesday, Oct. 25, to approve the extension. The ambulance is based at the Vista Fire Department’s Station 6 off East Vista Way.

“We asked the board to please give us a 12-month extension,” NCFPD fire chief Keith McReynolds said. “It is serving the North Zone well, and the ambulance has accomplished its mission.”

What is known as the “North Zone” has an automatic aid program where the closest available resource is deployed regardless of the city or fire district where the call for service is needed. Vista is among the fire agencies participating in the boundary drop agreement, but the location of Vista causes Vista Fire Department resources to be deployed to other cities or unincorporated communities. The automatic aid calls have left Vista itself without ambulance service, and the city of Vista had considered withdrawing from the ambulance boundary drop agreement.

The Vista Fire Department is an agency of the city of Vista. The Vista Fire Protection District, which includes part of southern Bonsall as well as unincorporated Vista, contracts with the city of Vista for fire protection and emergency medical services so the Vista Fire Department is also the primary agency providing service within the Vista Fire Protection District boundaries.

The North County Fire Protection District fleet includes three NCFPD ambulances based at fire stations and three reserve ambulances. On March 22, the NCFPD board voted 5-0 to station and staff a basic life support ambulance in Vista for a 30-day trial period. The NCFPD ambulance based in Vista was staffed from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

“It’s preserving our ambulance boundary drop with Vista, which allows Vista to send us paramedic ambulances when our three are busy, so it’s working out well for everyone,” McReynolds said.

Because the ambulance in Vista is for basic life support it is staffed by emergency medical technicians rather than paramedics. The BLS ambulance at Station 6 has two emergency medical technicians who are NCFPD employees. The use of single-role emergency medical technicians means that no NCFPD firefighters are based outside of the NCFPD boundaries. The NCFPD ambulances stationed at NCFPD Station 1 on Ivy Street, Station 4 in Pala Mesa and Station 5 in Bonsall are all advanced life support ambulances.

The ambulance at Station 6 in Vista handles lower-priority calls, which keeps the Vista ambulances available for the higher-priority calls. In addition to providing service to the Vista and NCFPD coverage areas, the ambulance has also responded to calls in Oceanside and Carlsbad.

The ambulance was first placed into service April 11. The period from April 11 through June 11 allowed for two months’ worth of data to be collected and analyzed. During that time, the NCFPD ambulance responded to 354 calls, including 166 incidents in which the ambulance transported a patient.

The 30-day trial period was intended to confirm or refute the belief that ambulance billing would recover the NCFPD operational expenses. Over the first two months, the personnel costs were approximately $29,000 while other operating expenses such as fuel and supplies totaled approximately $10,000. Based on information from the NCFPD third-party billing administrator, the ambulance transport revenue for that period was approximately $48,000. On July 26, the NCFPD board voted 5-0 to extend the agreement for an additional three months.

Between April 11 and Sept. 11, the ambulance responded to 816 calls in the Vista, Carlsbad, Oceanside and NCFPD service areas, including 398 calls which involved transport. That number equates to an average of 2.6 transports per 12-hour shift. Personnel expenses during that five-month period were approximately $93,000 and operating costs totaled approximately $25,000. The transport revenue was approximately $140,000.

The new agreement increases the NCFPD ambulance’s availability from 12 hours to 24 hours each day.

“It is now a 24-hour ambulance,” McReynolds said. “That’s good.”

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at [email protected].


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