The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Hospital hires ambulance service


June 25, 2015


Providing the best and quickest care for patients is the end goal of Roosevelt General Hospital’s new ambulance service, set to begin transporting patients in August.

RGH CEO Larry Leaming said the service, operated by Elite Medical Transport, will allow for the transportation of patients to nearby medical facilities without putting a strain on the Portales Fire Department’s resources while cutting down on transfer times.

Leaming said Elite is currently securing a location in Portales to house the vehicle and crew that will transport patients to out-of-town medical facilities and relieve the Portales Fire Department of a portion of the hospitals transfer patients.

“We would call the Portales Fire Department whenever we needed medical transfers and there were times they could not do it because of a lack of staff, lack of equipment, and other reasons. That can create delays in getting patients transferred. Our concern was the length of time it takes to get patients transferred somewhere else. It (Elite) gets patients where they need to be sooner,” Leaming said.

Elite President Robert Campion said the ambulance service will start with a single ambulance that will be on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Campion said Elite already operates 20 state-of-the-art ambulances in cities across New Mexico and West Texas.

Elite employs about 150 people state wide and transports an average of 14,000 patients per year, according to Campion.

Campion said the ambulance that will be used in Portales is currently in the process of being approved by the state Public Regulation Commission.

Elite will be hiring six to 10 local emergency medical technicians (EMT), according to Campion.

Campion said the ambulance service is set up on a New Mexico tariff, which is no cost to RGH.

The state will set the rates for patient transport.

Campion said the base rate for the service is set at $289 with a $10.40 charge per mile.

The transport service will bill patients separately from the hospital, according to Leaming.

Leaming said the hospital hasn’t had any serious issues due to delays in patient transport, but began exploring options to prevent issues caused by long delays from happening.

“We have all kinds of quality metrics. One of the metrics we have is the time it takes between identifying a patients needs and transferring them where they need to go. It took too long to arrange patients transfers. If you delay care, there are consequences to those things. People need to be where there will receive the proper care they need quickly.”

Campion said the service will transfer patients in the most convenient method for them.

“Our philosophy is that this all works best when we pair the right patient with the right form of transport,” Campion said.

Portales Fire Chief Gary Nuckols said the ambulance service will help the fire department in more than one way.

According to Nuckols, the department will save money and staff when Elite begins its transport service.

Nuckols said the service will relieve staffing issues at the department by allowing the department’s EMTs to remain on call at the station rather than transporting patients long distances.

“There’s been an increased demand for out-of-town transfers and we are unable to meet that demand with current staffing levels,” Nuckols said.

Nuckols said the service will also free up the department’s ambulances for emergency calls in the community.

“We’re up 15% on 911 calls. It’s difficult to meet the demands of transfers and 911 calls,” Nuckols said. “The community and 911 calls are absolutely our top priority.”

Emergency 911 calls have risen from approximately 2,200 calls in 2014 to about 2,500 in the first six months of 2015, according to Nuckols.

Nuckols said his staff is ready for the service to begin.

“The guys are excited to slow the transfers down and focus more on training than being on the road so often,” Nuckols said.

Elite’s services will result in less frequent use of the Portales Fire Department’s four ambulances, according to Nuckols.

Nuckols said the ambulance service will help save money on repair and maintenance for the departments ambulances.

According to Nuckols, the fire department performs about 350 out-of-town transfers per year.

“We could have none today and three tomorrow,” Nuckols said of transfers. “It puts a stress on staff when demand is high. We’re excited about having help with that.”

Leaming said the addition of the ambulance service was sought after to provide patients with the appropriate level of care at a reasonable cost.

Campion said the service will help keep beds in the emergency room free for people who need them.

“It’s going to improve the quality of care absolutely. The addition of the helicopter was a huge improvement also. We can get people onto that helicopter and at an emergency care facility in 30 minutes. But this is for people who don’t necessarily need to be transferred by helicopter but they still need to get there in a timely manner. It’s for those that are in between. They are not so acute a helicopter is necessary for them, but they need a higher level of care,” Leaming said of the service.

— Managing Editor Alisa Boswell contributed to this report


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