Usually no one wonders if they call for an ambulance will one come to their aid. They just assume help is on the way as soon as 911 is dialed.
The Turkey Creek Fire Territory has done its best to make sure there are enough ambulances to cover the territory.
Currently the Turkey Creek Fire Territory Fire Department has three ambulances. One is housed at Station I, the other at Station II and the third, also stationed at Station I, serves as a backup if a third call comes in and the other two ambulances are already on a call or if an ambulance is being serviced.
Fire chief Mickey Scott said having all three ambulances called out does not happen very often, only about six to 12 times a year. The most recent was in January when all three were called out twice. Scott said the first time it happened, all three were Syracuse calls while the second time two of the calls were Syracuse and one was Benton Township.
The fire territory also makes transport runs to Benton and Clinton townships in Elkhart County through an interlocal agreement.
Both Stations I and II are manned 24 hours a day 7 days a week, so if both ambulances are out on calls, if a volunteer crew or off duty officers come in, they will man the third ambulance. The department also has two basic life support vehicles which are for non-transport situation but which can provide care until an ambulance is available.
“Can I guarantee an ambulance to everyone 24/7, 365? No, no one can because no one can guarantee the future,” Scott said. But, North Webster Fire Department also backs up the fire territory and the fire territory backs up North Webster as well.
For Benton Township, the Turkey Creek Fire Territory provides ambulance transport. Last year, fire territory personnel made 124 runs to Benton Township. “One of the theories I’ve had with this department is we don’t try to sell the service. If they (another community) come and ask for help, we give it,” Scott said.
Scott explained when an ambulance runs to Benton or Clinton townships, the ambulance fee is higher for the patient. The fire territory has a resident and nonresident fee which is based on where the ambulance responds to. If an ambulance responds to a call in the fire territory area, the ambulance fee ranges from $800 for basic life support/non-emergency to $1,000 for advanced life support II, the highest amount of care provided by the department.
If the ambulance responds to a call outside the fire territory, the ambulance fees are $950 for BLS to $1,150 for ALS 2. In both areas, an $18 per loaded mile fee is also charged, meaning the patient is only billed mileage for the time they are in the ambulance, not for the ambulance coming to the scene to pick them up or when it returns to the station.
“We deal with a lot of Medicaid/Medicare calls,” Scott explained. “They have a set amount they pay. It’s usually lower than the given rate.” Usually that amount is around $350 to $400. In the case of Medicare, if a patient has secondary insurance, the remainder of the bill be be sent to the secondary insurance company, although sometimes it refuses to pay. With Medicaid, the remainder is usually written off.
In the rare times double payment happens because a patient doesn’t think the insurance company will pay and it has, the extra funds are returned to the patient.
“You have to accept what they want to pay,” Scott said about Medicare and Medicaid. “You can kick a big fit, but it usually doesn’t help.”
During a fire call, an ambulance also responds. Scott explained the ambulance crew carry air packs and their fire gear on the ambulance. If they are needed to assist patients, that is their first priority. If no one at the scene needs medical attention, the crew help in fire fighting.
The fire territory is one of three departments in Kosciusko County has that cross trained personnel. Everyone is a trained paramedic and a firefighter. “Life, safety is always going to be number one. That’s the way we’ve always looked at it,” Scott said. “A house can be replaced, a person can’t.”
Scott said if both ambulances are out, he will reposition himself to Station I where the third ambulance is located, so he can jump in and help if needed. “It can happen to anyone at anytime where you don’t have enough resources. You have to balance protecting your own community while helping others out,” Scott said, explaining North Webster and Milford follow a similar philosophy.
The fire territory is just as busy in the winter as it is in the summer. The main difference is in the type of calls. In the winter months, the calls are more health related while in the summer there are more trauma calls. This past January there were 294 EMS calls and 11 fire calls.