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Scottsdale close to launching city-operated ambulance service

After using a private company for nearly 20 years, Scottsdale is preparing to launch a city-run ambulance program. 

Right now if you call 911 for a medical issue in Scottsdale, the Fire Department will respond and provide treatment, but if you need to be moved by ambulance, a third party is called.

“We're really finding organizational and operational inefficiencies in continuing that model,” said Battalion Chief Brian Joseph.

He said firefighters responded to 29,000 medical calls last year and 18,000 required ambulances.

“Where a third party or private service would look to make a profit or find ways to streamline their operation to generate revenue, we as a municipal service see this just as a public safety need,” Joseph said.

Patients will still be billed for ambulance service but Scottsdale says their program is not designed to be a money maker.

"That being said, there are opportunities for us to run an operational deficits at times, and there will be times that we will have small generations in revenue, to have positive cash flow," Joseph said. "But really, the goal of the transport service being run by a municipality is to focus on the public safety need of our community and making sure that we have that ability to respond whenever the call comes in."

Final approval by the state is expected this monthand Scottsdale plans to have its first ambulances running in January.

“Three of them will be 24-hour units and one of them will be a backup unit for additional demand or in case there's mechanical breakdowns. And this is really going to be a three to four year build out for us and we're looking to have roughly nine full time ambulances running 24/7 365,” Joseph said.

Scottsdale will rely on private service as needed for backup. The city created a web page with background and frequently asked questions at cottsdaleaz.gov/fire/ground-ambulance-program.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.