City approves new fees for GFFR ambulance transport


City Commissioners approved new fees for Great Falls Fire Rescue ambulance transport services during their March 1 meeting.

The cost recovery mechanism would allow for GFFR to recover costs of transporting patients, an ability they didn’t previously have.

The city has an agreement for prehospital transport with Great Falls Emergency Services and GFFR provides supplemental transport services when GFES has no ambulances or staff available to respond to a 911 call.

City considering fees for GFFR ambulance transport to recover costs

“Under those circumstances, GFFR enters the patient transport rotation to alleviate the ‘surge’ of 911 EMS calls by
conducting a patient transport with Advanced Life Support care to the receiving hospital,” according to GFFR.

In 2015, GFFR only intervened five times to provide transport service to the community.

In 2021, that number was 74.

GFFR puts new ambulance into service

“The need is ever growing,” GFFR Chief Jeremy Jones told commissioners during the March 1 meeting.

Jones told commissioners that they plan to use a third party company to handle the billing and will come back to commissioners with that proposal.

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During the Jan. 18 commission work session, Jeremy Virts, GFFR’s deputy chief of EMS, said that GFES bills patients for their services, some of which is covered by insurance, and GFFR is proposing a similar medical billing system with a third party company, Pintler Billing, a Montana company that other fire departments in the state use. The company would take a cut of the collections, according to city staff.

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GFFR is transporting more often during surges, when there aren’t enough ambulances or staff to respond to calls, Virts said.

Virts showed commissioners a chart during their Jan. 18 meeting based on data of when no private ambulances were available in the city.

In January 2021, there were 39 hours with no private ambulances available to respond. GFFR transported two patients that month.

In September 2021, there were 57 hours with no private ambulances available and GFFR transported 12 patients, Virts said.

Firefighters train for mayday situations

“It only makes a difference if you don’t need an ambulance,” he said during the Jan. 18 meeting.

GFFR currently has two ambulances.

In 2017, the city purchased an ambulance to replace the used one that was purchased in 2006.

In November, GFFR put their new ambulance into service. That ambulance was purchased through a Community Development Block grant from the city.

Over the summer, the City Commission approved a CDBG request from GFFR for $355,042 for the new ambulance that is based out of Fire Station 1 downtown.