Back way before my EMS career I did a short stint selling retail electronics. For the most part I sold stereo gear, with some CB and scanner sales on the side, plus various other items. I worked for a now defunct chain that was in competition with Radio Shack. This was back before Radio Shack became mostly a cell phone retailer and one could buy real electronic items. Anyway, one of the promos our competition ran was for “free batteries” with the purchase of certain items. When customers would come in and want to know why we didn’t offer free batteries, our stock answer was, “Free batteries are worth what you pay for them.” Sometimes it even worked and when it didn’t the customers usually found out that we were speaking the truth and came to us for their replacement batteries.
In later years I learned that in general free advice was like free batteries, generally worth what you pay for it.
I have no reason to think that free ambulance service will be much better.
Councilmen Tim Shuffett, Ryan Brand, Aaron Hankins and Jim Lienhoop said during a City Council meeting Tuesday that they see no reason to select any of the applicants that would require a subsidy when others have proposed to offer the service with no subsidy.
Unlike them, I can think of several reasons not to take the “free” service. Of course unlike them, I actually know something about the delivery of EMS and understand that it’s about more than response times and giving people rides to the hospital.
It’s free, but is it any good? The Board should look at the details of the RM and Trans-Care offers and see how many units will be assigned, if they will be dedicated to 9-1-1 or shared with the far more lucrative transfer and return service. What will the crew configuration be like? All ALS, all BLS, a mix? What type of vehicles will be used? Will they be new units or ones that have been used for a while or maybe even purchased used once the contract is awarded? Speaking of which, what is the term of the contract and is there an “opt out” if it becomes too expensive for the “free” service to keep providing “free” service?
Speaking of response times, will the “free” services guarantee that they will have an ambulance on scene in a specific time or are they going to respond on fire or other first responders to stop the clock? That’s a frequent technique used to meet response times and shift costs of maintaining equipment back onto the community without appearing to do so?
Sadly, the article addresses none of that and there is no way for me to tell if any of those questions have been asked. Surely a reporter would ask those questions IF he or she knew what to ask or at least who to ask.
Even more sadly I suspect that the contract will be awarded to one of the “free” services and by the time anyone realizes the service isn’t as good (if they do), it will be too late.