City Council OKs ‘transport ordinance’

The Mercer Island City Council voted 5 to 2 at the regular City Council meeting on Monday night to implement a fee for Mercer Island firefighters to transport patients to area hospitals. The fee, ordinarily charged by private ambulance services to patients and/or their insurance companies, would be billed and collected by the city instead.

The program will be reviewed for efficacy after one year. The transport fee is set at $770.

Currently, the city does not charge transportation fees when critical patients are taken to local hospitals by city firefighters. For noncritical patients, private ambulance service are called. Fees charged by private companies are covered by most medical insurance policies.

The ordinance ensures that transport services by the city will never be conditioned on ability to pay. The city will not pursue collection on unpaid fees.

Mercer Island firefighters and others did not support the ordinance, citing the fact that transporting patients off-Island, as a matter of course, could compromise the ability of the department to respond to emergencies here. However, Fire Chief Chris Tubbs told the Council that fire personnel at the scene will assess each individual situation and will have the final say as to whether or not resources available here are sufficient to take time to transport.

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