ST. GEORGE – So is the ambulance war finally over with the state’s granting Dixie Ambulance’s 911-emergency transport licenses for St. George to Gold Cross Ambulance? Dixie Ambulance and its supporters have vowed to fight on while Gold Cross says it’s looking forward to serving the people of St. George staring May 1.
Dr. David Patton, executive director of the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services issued the judgment in a 66-page final order March 27 that chose Gold Cross over Dixie Ambulance based on the recommendation of Hearing Officer Maxwell Miller.
Maxwell Miller was the state-appointed hearing officer who oversaw a four-day hearing in December 2012 that compared the two companies and concluded Dixie Ambulance could no longer reliably service for St. George due to a myriad of issues that placed it in violation of state regulations while Gold Cross was in full compliance. He also concluded that Gold Cross would surpass the current level of EMS service offered by Dixie Ambulance.
Despite the ruling Dixie Ambulance’s owners are determined to battle on.
“We’re willing to risk everything to fight this all the way,” said Mac Miller, Dixie Ambulance’s public information officer.
Miller said Dixie Ambulance continues to dispute the findings referenced in the ruling. Dixie Ambulance has 20 days to appeal the ruling and that is exactly what the owners intend to do.
Lawyers for Dixie Ambulance will file a request for stay of judgment, Miller said. If the stay of judgment is denied they intend to take the company’s appeal to a higher appellate court. By staying implementation of the ruling, Dixie Ambulances hopes to continue operating past May 1 and while a potential court battle ensues.
Dixie Ambulance’s owners aren’t the only ones determined to see the fight through to a more final end. Miller said the company’s employees are as well.
In the hours following the release of the state’s ruling, employees of Dixie Ambulance called together an impromptu meeting to discuss their options. Representatives of the owners – Michelle Randall and Mac Miller – were permitted to sit in on the meeting and were then asked to leave while employees discussed their options.
The result of the meeting was a general consensus of support for Dixie Ambulance and its continuing efforts, Miller said: “They were with us in the first two minutes.”
St. George News was invited to attend the meeting on March 27 but was asked to step out of the meeting with the owners as the employees convened. An estimated 1/3-1/2 of the company’s employees attended and their consensus was confirmed. At direction of Dixie Ambulance, however, its public information officer is maintaining all contact with media and employees thus far have not agreed to speak independently with St. George News on record.
Dixie Ambulance employs 60-plus individuals. Dixie Ambulance will be left with 25-30 percent of its original service area should Gold Cross be able to assume 911-transport service on May 1. As such, the company’s ability to retain its current level of staffing will be one of the many things affected as it is forced to adapt to its new situation.
If the company is able to continue operating at all, Miller said. Santa Clara and Washington average 2.7 calls per day, and not every call results in a transport. It’s not going to be enough to keep Dixie Ambulance in business, he said.
As for the letter the City of St. George sent to BEMS asking the agency to allow Dixie Ambulance time to correct deficiencies listed in the ruling recommendation, Miller said the agency never once contacted Dixie Ambulance concerning the matter. They aren’t the only ones BEMS didn’t contact before the final ruling was issued.
“They never did contact us,” St. George Mayor Daniel McArthur said. “They took the letter we sent … and stuck it on a shelf and let it go.”
Patton did acknowledge the city’s letter in the final ruling but made no direct response to the city’s suggestion: “After the hearing and the issuance of the recommended decision, St. George City officials expressed a desire to allow time for Dixie Ambulance to remedy its shortcomings,” is all the final order said on the matter.
If Dixie Ambulance’s efforts to stay implementation of the final ruling fall short, Gold Cross will take over its 911-transport licenses and assume ambulance service in St. George as of May 1.
“It’s a fatal blow,” Miller said.
Until then Dixie Ambulance’s owners will continue to fight.
Gold Cross Ambulance
“We intend to start May 1,” said Mike Moffitt, president of Gold Cross. He added he felt it was unlikely that Dixie Ambulance’s efforts to appeal would keep his company from assuming the St. George licenses.
Concerning the final ruling and the recommendation that spawned it, Moffitt said there was little point in belaboring the matter after the fact. “Dixie Ambulance’s performance was found to be lacking – that’s what needs to be judged,” he said.
As for St. George, Gold Cross is looking forward to becoming “an integral part of the community,” he said.
Gold Cross’s immediate goals will be to establish working relationships with other first responder agencies in St. George and throughout the county. Prospective and future employees are also projected to all come from the Washington County area.
Aside from a proven track record of service and over 40 years of experience, Moffitt said, ways St. George will benefit from Gold Cross’ services include greatly expanded resources and continued support of worthy causes in the area.
Gold Cross has pledged to stage four ambulances around St. George exclusively, while Dixie Ambulance currently stages three ambulances around St. George that also answer calls in the surrounding communities.
As a larger company it will also be able to dedicate additional resources to help cover major events in St. George such as the Ironman 70.3, St. George Marathon, and Huntsman World Senior Games, Moffitt said. These resources will allow the city itself to remain adequately covered during such major events.
Gold Cross also donated an ambulance and cardiac monitors to Dixie State University’s EMS program in 2011 and 2012.
“The community is going to have a really broad level of resources (to draw upon),” Moffitt said.
One of the objections to Gold Cross Ambulance’s coming to St. George has been the worry that St. George is merely the first step in an effort to eventually take over 911-emergency transport licenses across the county. The concern was raised by Dixie Ambulance and the Hurricane Valley Fire Special Services District during the December 2012 hearing.
“Gold Cross has no plans or designs to expand beyond St. George,” Moffitt said. “We’re not predatory.”
However, if Dixie Ambulance is unable to continue operating in the areas left available to it, Gold Cross has already committed to help cover those areas until a more permanent solution is found.
Moffitt said that it wasn’t the idea of going after business in the county that led to Gold Cross applying for the 911-transport licenses, but rather the “abysmal performance of Dixie Ambulance in St. George City.”
If the issue of the state ruling is taken to court on appeal as Dixie Ambulance plans, Moffitt said Gold Cross will also go as far as it has to through the courts.
Gold Cross has maintained a presence in St. George since 2009 when it opened a transport service for disabled individuals called Gold Cross Transportation. It also provides interfacility transport for Dixie Regional Medical Center, a function formerly served by Dixie Ambulance.
The city will be watching
Whether or not Dixie Ambulance is able to retain its licenses through a court battle or Gold Cross assumes 911-transport in St. George, the City of St. George will be watching.
“We’re setting some standards right away that we expect to be met,” Mayor Daniel McArthur said. “If they’re not met, we may have to find another direction.”
That direction may be an RFP, that is, a Request for Proposal, which is an open bid process through which any ambulance service can apply.
Councilman Gil Almquist will also be watching. He said whichever ambulance company serves St. George will “not have a moment of rest” under the city’s supervision.
Gold Cross is ready to sign on to agreements with the City of St. George and its myriad agencies, Moffitt said.
As for Dixie Ambulance, Miller said there are changes in the works. If the City of St. George asks them to operate differently or implement particular practices, they will. However, while changes are being made, it remains to be seen if it will be enough.
“There’s a great unknown,” Miller said.
- Upgrading St. George ambulance service: Sen. Steve Urquhart’s blog post concerning the pending change in ambulance service and his involvement.
- Save Dixie Ambulance: a Facebook page created by Dixie Ambulance supporters
- Ambulance war: State agency rules in favor Gold Cross
- Ambulance War: City of St. George rebukes state agency, calls for time for Dixie Ambulance
- Ambulance war: Eyes on the St. George City Council
- Ambulance War: Dixie Ambulance speaks out; STGnews Videocast
- Ambulance War: Gold Cross recommended over Dixie Ambulance
- Perspectives: Making sense of the ambulance war
- Ambulance war scapegoat? St. George Dispatch responds to hearing testimony
- Ambulance war: Broken system, dispatch delays? Decision pending
- Ambulance war: Contest for territory raises solvency, staffing issues at hearing
- Public support for Dixie Ambulance floods hearing
- Public hearing to discuss ambulance service in St. George; Dixie Ambulance receives negative audit
- Dixie Ambulance Voices its Opinion on Gold Cross’ Application; Gold Cross Says System is Broken
- Letter to the Editor: Consider the Cost
- Gold Cross Could Replace Dixie Ambulance if Application is Approved
- Gold Cross Submits Application to Provide 911 Ambulance Services in St. George
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