Local ambulance could be on budget chopping block - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Topstory

Local ambulance could be on budget chopping block

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Posted: Thursday, March 25, 2010 11:00 pm

As part of the city’s recent budget cuts, Ahwatukee Foothills may lose one of two ambulances assigned full time to the area.

Rescue 38, housed in station 38 at 50th Street and Warner Road, was the first ambulance assigned to Ahwatukee Foothills back in the 1980s.

Now, it could be gone by April 5 to help balance the city’s budget.

Fire department budget cuts include the elimination of two full-time and one part-time rescue units, for a savings of $2.2 million.

The loss of Rescue 38 would leave just Rescue 43 near 40th Street and Chandler Boulevard as the only ambulance to cover the 35 square miles and 80,000 people in Ahwatukee Foothills.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Greta Rogers, who has twice been transported to the hospital by Rescue 38 for minor medical emergencies.

Firefighters were also unhappy at the prospects of long delays to transport ill or injured patients, but declined to speak on the record.

Before any decision is made, Assistant Fire Chief Todd Harms said a committee will review calls for service, geography, times and types of calls and what backup is available before any changes are made anywhere in Phoenix.

But he also added that the cuts will have to be made and will have consequences.

“Losing three ambulances in the system, there will be an impact,” Harms said.

He stressed that there are no plans to change staff in Ahwatukee Foothills for the three engine companies and one ladder company that provide the initial advanced life support response to medical and fire calls.

“The initial response will be there,” Harms said, adding that an alternative could be to assign a part-time ambulance in Ahwatukee Foothills during peak times to respond to calls and help cut cost.

Medical experts say that while quick response by paramedics is critical, transporting patients quickly and efficiently is also important.

Ahwatukee Foothills is a tough area to cover for firefighters because it is actually made up of several different areas, all with unique demands.

Along Interstate 10 and 38th Street, where Rescue 38 is the first responder, firefighters focus on injuries from traffic collisions and medical problems with the older population.

In The Foothills, which is served by Rescue 43, the ambulance has to cover a huge area, roughly from 48th Street to 27 Avenue, which stretched initial response times from the 4 minutes to more than 8 minutes.

And firefighters are concerned because unlike fire engines, where mutual aid allows one city’s department to quickly provide firefighters and equipment to a nearby city if there is an emergency, ambulances stay in their own cities except for extraordinary emergencies. So if both ambulances in Ahwatukee Foothills are busy on calls, the nearest backup is on the north side of the mountain near Baseline Road and 40th Street at Station 32.

In 2009 Rescue 38 was sent on 1,267 calls, up from 1,009 in 2008. Rescue 43 was also busy, going on 1,130 calls in 2009 and 985 in 2008.

While no equipment or firefighters assigned to any of the three stations in Ahwatukee Foothills will be eliminated in the current round of budget cuts, a fourth station planned for 19th Avenue and Chandler Boulevard, and paid for with bond money, has been put on hold awaiting an upturn in the economy.

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