60-day extension granted as Port Arthur fire chief leads ambulance services review

Published 12:18 am Wednesday, July 26, 2023

City leaders are continuing their research into two medical transport companies seeking permits to operate in Port Arthur.

Port Arthur Fire Chief Greg Benson said the two companies are Acadian Ambulance, which currently operates in the city, and City Ambulance.

Part of the research process is ensuring their qualifications and capabilities, Benson told City Council last week. This means patient assessment accuracy and being able to transport the patient to the appropriate facility.

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Benson spoke of a Standard of Cover, or SOC, a systematic method to assess community needs in alignment with emergency system resources. It involves risk assessment, resource deployment, training and certification quality assurance and continuous quality improvement.

There are multiple types of EMS models. One is private EMS transport, which is what the city has now. Another is fire-based EMS. Benson said this is when the fire department has an ambulance and runs the ambulance service. Another is third-party staffing, where the fire department has the ambulance but the staffing is provided by a third party, not the city.

“And there’s pros and cons to each of these, if you will,” Benson said.

District 3 Councilwoman Doneane Beckcom asked how many firefighters are in the city and how many are paramedics.

Benson said the city has 104 firefighters and seven or eight are paramedics but two of them are in administration.

A survey by the fire department’s medical group was done recently showing 40 percent of the department would be interested in increasing from basic EMT to advanced EMT or all the way to paramedic.

Funding to obtain the higher certifications is something that will need discussion going forward.

Multiple ambulance services likely means a rotating schedule, Beckcom said, but what if there’s a call on the West Side and the next available ambulance is not the closest?

The rotation, Benson said, could be done different ways such as location, time frames, or by weeks. This is an issue that would need to be explored more, he added.

“That brings up the issue of do we have enough firefighters that are certified as paramedics so that they can take the overload,” Beckcom said.

Firefighters are interested in increasing their medical training because approximately 75 percent of their calls are medical in nature and not all are severe in nature, Benson said.

City Council gave a final 60-day extension of existing ambulance services between the city and Acadian to facilitate deliberations on the application process.

In April the city opened applications to ambulance services seeking a permit to operate in city limits. This came after the fire department’s medical group met and made recommendations for improving emergency services.

In June, Acadian and City Ambulance Service made proposals to City Council.