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City cuts hit ambulances; fee hikes to follow?

March 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
If you live in the city of Los Angeles, it could take longer for an ambulance to reach you, and you might have to pay more for your care. The L.A. City Council is considering a cutback on ambulances and raising fees for treatment to help with the city's budget deficit.The City Council is considering closing down 10 basic life-support ambulances to cut down the budget deficit, something the firefighters union strongly opposes.

"You're already closing nine ambulances every day in this city, as you know, in 15 fire companies under the brown-outs that are currently in effect. This would close 10 more, for a total of 19 ambulances," said Pat McOsker, president, United Firefighters of Los Angeles.

At the same time, the council now is considering charging people more for being treated and transported by Los Angeles City Fire ambulances. At the same time there's a possibility they will be charged for being treated but not transported.

"We're currently seeing somewhere in the neighborhood of about 6,000 people that we currently treat but don't transport," said Los Angeles City Fire Department Chief Millage Peaks.

The city now charges a patient $1,004 to be treated and transported. It's looking at raising the fee to as much as $1,500 and that could generate some $8 million a year.

"People are going to say, 'I'm not going to call the fire department because I'm afraid to pay $1,100," said L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge.

Chief Peaks was asked to come up with ways to trim his department's deficit and he isn't happy about any of the alternatives.

"This is not something I want to do, this is something we have to do in light of the budget crisis and this is, again, part of the shared sacrifice," said Peaks.

The increases in ambulance fees and the cutbacks in fire department services won't be considered until next week.

Meantime, the Los Angeles Police Department has found some $45 million in proposed savings in its budget, but none of them require cutting the number of sworn officers or the severe cuts in the fire department.

The City Council received a briefing on things such things as cutting down the number of times officers have to qualify with firearms.


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