On March 1, 2021, Cobre Valley Regional Medical Center (CVRMC) will enter into the ambulance business with the acquisition of the Kearny Ambulance service and assets from the Town of Kearny.
“We want to ensure that the citizens of Kearny, Hayden, Winkelman, and Dudleyville continue to have access to a high-level of emergency care,” stated Neal Jensen, CVRMC Chief Executive Officer. “I want to acknowledge and commend the current EMS providers and the Town of Kearny for their dedication and hard work to keep the EMS services going for the citizens of Kearny and surrounding communities.”
The Town of Kearny has been strained financially to keep the service in operation and has subsidized the ambulance operations for many years. Kearny has reached a point where they can no longer finance the service. Based on volume of calls, small rural communities struggle to keep ambulance services in operation because costs are higher than the revenue generated by the low number of calls.
“Because of CVRMC’s Critical Access (CAH) status, we are going to seek ‘cost based reimbursement’ to help mitigate costs,” Jensen states. Because of the remote location of the Kearny Ambulance service, CVRMC is in a position to be eligible for financial assistance under Medicare ambulance reimbursement. Jensen continues, “If CVRMC is not able to secure ‘cost based reimbursement,’ we will have to seek support from key stakeholders.”
In preparation for the acquisition, CVRMC has renovated part of the Kearny Clinic to provide crew quarters for the newly hired staff. Current Town of Kearny EMS staff will have to apply and interview with CVRMC. CVRMC’s expectation is to have full-time EMTs, paramedics, and support staff live in Kearny and to be part of the community with the philosophy, when people live in a community they serve, they respond more effectively to the needs of their friends and neighbors.
Through an application to the State of Arizona, CVRMC is required to have a “Certificate of Necessity” (CON) which gives the authorization to treat patients in a specific geographic area. CON is a legal document that is required to conduct medical business, in this case an ambulance service. In order to acquire the CON, CVRMC has to meet all the state requirements for EMS which includes specific guidelines for response times, ambulance requirements, maintenance records, daily checklists, etc., to ensure preparedness to respond to medical emergencies.
Beginning March 1, CVRMC will become the EMS base station and along with the triage protocols, EMTs and paramedics will have access to ER physicians to determine if a patient needs to be transferred, where the patient should be transferred to, and how the patient should be transferred. “On evaluation between EMTs, paramedics, and ER physicians, patients will be transported to the most appropriate facility for their continuing medical needs,” states Rhonda Mason, CVRMC Chief Nursing Officer.
“When CVRMC was approached, we started doing our due diligence and meeting with the Town of Kearny,” stated Ms. Mason. “We did not want there to be a gap of care for emergency response. The citizens of Kearny and surrounding communities really need this service.”
“We were not actively seeking to be in the ambulance business, but we are confident that we can continue to provide safe, high-level emergency response care to the communities of the Kearny area,” states Jensen. “For us, although it was a tough decision, it was very clear if the community did not have an emergency provider they would have extended delays to receive healthcare and that is just not acceptable.”