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Chief: Emergency transport fee ordinance is working
The Mercer Island City Council voted six months ago to implement a fee for Mercer Island firefighters to transport patients to area hospitals.
The fee, ordinarily charged and collected by private ambulance services, is now charged by the city. An outside company under contract to the city now bills and collects the money.
Island fire chief Chris Tubbs said that despite the number of transports and the revenue they generated being less than forecasted, the arrangement is working well.
The transport fee is set at $770. To date, the change has brought in $127,500. Details involved in billing the fees are still being ironed out, the chief said.
The ordinance ensures that transport services by the city will never be determined by the ability to pay. The city will not pursue collection on unpaid fees.
Fire personnel at the scene will assess each situation and have the final say as to whether or not enough personnel and equipment would remain on the Island if they take time to transport a patient off Island.
Mercer Island firefighters and others did not support the ordinance, citing the fact that transporting patients off-Island, more often than before, could compromise the ability of the department to respond to emergencies here.
Island firefighter union head, Ray Austin, said that firefighters remain concerned about the risk caused by having firefighting resources off the Island. “It is a great idea,” he said, “but we are not staffed for it.”
The union, however, respects the decision by the Council.
“They heard our concerns,” he said. “They listened, then made their decision. We will follow our orders.”