Murrieta to introduce subscription plan for emergency medical response


Each time their bay doors open, firefighters at Station 1 in Murrieta are most likely not rolling out to a fire, but to a medical emergency.

"Roughly 70 percent of our 911 calls are for medical emergencies, and that's everything from heart attack, strokes, fall injuries, car accidents, anything that is illness- or injury-related," said Murrieta Fire Department Chief Matt Shobert.

Paramedics and firefighters are often the first on the scene to provide medical assistance. But soon there will be an added cost for medical calls.

Last week the fire department sent out letters notifying Murrieta residents about a new EMS subscription program. For an annual fee residents can avoid paying a $350-per-call fee if medical help is needed.

"If you want to use the fire department then you could pay the $48 a year, but they will still, if you call 911, they'll still take care of you," said Murrieta resident Diane Castle. "You'll just be billed later."

Shobert says that in recent years cutbacks have eaten away at his staffing levels and training programs. He says the fee will help bridge the department's budget gap by generating an additional $400,000 in revenue.

"This isn't a big money grab. We are trying to access a revenue stream to help maintain vital services for this community from some of the best paramedics, firefighters in the state," said Shobert.

Even so, residents like Jeff Bennett don't like the fee. He says he has no plan to pay for an annual subscription.

Low-income residents can apply for a lower fee, while businesses owners will pay more depending on the number of employees.

The Murrieta Fire Department's cost-recovery program goes into effect on January 1.

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