Lake Chinook offers EMS, adopts fee schedule
To help offset its expenses in its first year as a licensed ambulance service, Lake Chinook Fire and Rescue's Board of Directors has adopted an ambulance fee schedule.
The district applied to the Oregon Health Authority for authorization to become a licensed ambulance service, and received its license in the spring.
"This means that as a patient you no longer have to wait 35-plus minutes for an ambulance," said Fire Chief Don Colfels. "Our average response time is eight minutes. More importantly, we can now have a patient to definitive care within the 'golden hour.'"
The golden hour is the first hour after a serious injury or medical emergency when medical intervention is the most likely to prevent death.
"When LCF&R District was formed, we did not transport or plan to provide advanced emergency medical services," said Colfels, noting that they only provided basic first-aid, or basic life support on initial response, and did not levy taxes to defray the costs of providing emergency medical services.
The district is now transporting patients, but still doesn't levy taxes for that service.
"One of the things the OHA requires is a fee schedule," said Colfels. "So, we have to have a fee schedule for transporting."
"Most fire-based EMS don't levy taxes for emergency medical services; most charge fee for service, and most ambulances do the same thing," he said. "What we did is adopt fees for our ambulance service"
Lake Chinook Fire and Rescue, which operates inside Jefferson County Emergency Service's ambulance service area, has a response agreement with JCEMS to allow the district to transport within JCEMS' service area.
"Because we transport within Jefferson County's ASA, it would make sense that we charge the same rates," said Colfels. "We're working with JCEMS on an intergovernmental agreement for them to handle all our billing. During the summer we did several transports; they charged their rates and billed."
The district now charges an all-inclusive base rate of $1,400, or a basic life support charge of $1,050, and $25 per mile for patient transports, from pickup point to ultimate destination — just as JCEMS does.
At the Dec. 8 meeting, when the district adopted the ambulance fee schedule, they had also planned to adopt a fee schedule for fire operations, but that schedule had so many changes that they decided to pull the ordinance, give notice in January and restart the process.
"We'll rewrite the draft we have and made changes to," said Colfels.
"Basically, what we're trying to do is two-step process; we're wanting to adopt the Oregon Fire Code," he said, noting that the code does not have fees attached.
"The state adopts the international fire code and then makes some changes," he said. "Each district has the ability to adopt the Oregon Fire Code, as well as their own code, as long as their code is more stringent than the Oregon code."
"We are basically going to adopt the Oregon Fire Code, so we have the ability to enforce our ordinance," said Colfels.
The outdoor burning fee schedule will be similar to the one the Jefferson County Fire District adopted last year, which went into effect in January. The district will have an annual burn permit, commercial burn permit and other miscellaneous burning fees.
Lake Chinook Fire and Safety became a fire district in 2008, and constructed a new fire station in 2015. The station was dedicated in October 2015.
The district's area extends from the Cove Palisades State Park to Green Ridge and half way to Sisters — 44 square miles.
"However, through our response agreements with Oregon Department of Forestry and U.S. Forest Service and Jefferson County Fire, our response area is about 105 square miles," said Colfels. "Through service agreements, we go up to the top of Green Ridge and to Lynn Miller's horse ranch, about halfway to Sisters, just north of the Jefferson County line."
The district, which has one ambulance, three water tenders, two pumpers and three wildland engines, is overseen by a five-member board.