11/20/08 — County will increase fees for non-emergency transportation

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County will increase fees for non-emergency transportation

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 20, 2008 1:46 PM

It is going to cost more for people to use the county's ambulance services for non-emergency transport.

Commissioners Tuesday morning agreed to a recommendation from County Manager Lee Smith to amend the 2008-09 Wayne NET (Non-emergency Transport) fee schedule by adding standby rates.

The standby rates are $60 per hour and $30 per half hour, billable in half-hour increments.

The fee is charged if an ambulance waits while a patient is being seen at a doctor's office or similar appointment. If the ambulance waits for 45 minutes, the charge would be $30. The charge would be $60 if the wait is an hour. That is on top of the transport and other applicable fees.

If the ambulance drops off the patient and does not have to wait, there is no standby fee. However, that initial and return trip count as two trips and means two charges.

The other transport fees charged by Wayne NET are basic life support, $222.15; advanced life support, $266.59; non-emergency mileage, $7.56 per load mile; wheelchair van rates (non-ambulatory), $35 one-way trip, $50 round trip, $2 per loaded mile; and wheelchair van rate (ambulatory), $15 one-way trip, $30 round trip, $2 per loaded mile.

Wayne NET is a separate division of the county's emergency medical services and deals strictly with non-emergency transports, Wayne County EMS Director Blair Tyndall said.

"All they do is scheduled trips to dialysis treatments or to doctor's appointments and even carry people to Wake Med," Tyndall said.

All of the trips are pre-scheduled and pre-approved by doctors, he said. The vans are used when patients do not require the higher level of care offered in the ambulances.

The standby fee does not apply to van transports.

The Wayne NET operation is similar to the private services provided by Johnston Ambulance Service. Tyndall said the county and the company have "a good working relationship."

Wayne NET was organized about two years ago. It has 10 full-time employees, all of whom are emergency medical technicians (EMTs), who staff three ambulances. If needed, part-time employees can staff a fourth and fifth ambulance.

The county makes about 500 non-emergency transports monthly, Tyndall said.

The use of the ambulances is totally separate from the county's emergency transports whose ambulances are staffed by paramedics.

If needed, Wayne NET vehicles and EMTs can be drafted to help in 911 emergency transports. Should that happen, the shift paramedic rides with the EMTs.

Emergency ambulances and staff are never used for Wayne NET services, Tyndall said.

Tyndall said that the new standby rates were added after Medicare and Medicaid made them allowable charges.

"All rates are driven by what Medicare and Medicaid tell us we can bill," he said. "We will bill allowable items. We just don't pull the figures out of the air."