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Fort Worth, Texas News

Fort Worth EMS Overhaul: Committee Nears Decision on Integration with Fire Department

The Fort Worth City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Emergency Medical Response is making strides towards finalizing its recommendation for the future of EMS service in Fort Worth and its surrounding areas. The Committee is leaning towards integrating EMS service into the Fort Worth Fire Department, which would see governance of the EMS program handed over to the City Council, with transport between medical facilities removed from emergency operations.

Why it matters: The result would be an improvement in response times by as much as 5½ minutes, better resourcing a sustainable workload for paramedics and EMTs and long-term, sound financial health. MedStar CEO Ken Simpson recommended the option as the best path forward while praising MedStar EMTs, paramedics, dispatchers and other employees for decades of exceptional service.

If approved by the City Council, the transition to the Fire Department-based model could occur over a 12-month period, with an estimated annual cost of around $10 million. The Committee, presented with four options initially by consultant Fitch & Associates, is set to refine its recommendation by the end of April.

The four options included:

  1. Current System Provider: MedStar provides emergency medical services and provides services under contract with the Metropolitan Area EMS Authority (MAEMSA).
  2. Fire Department-Based Model (Sworn Personnel or Civilian): The Fort Worth Fire Department establishes a division of EMS, and either sworn personnel or a civilian personnel model is implemented.
  3. Third Service Model (City of Fort Worth Operated): The City of Fort Worth establishes a third public safety service that provides emergency medical services.
  4. Private Contractor Model: The MedStar member cities contract with a private contractor through a competitive request for proposals process, utilizing a purchased unit-hour model.

Fitch also recommended consolidating Fire and MedStar 911 communications facilities. Stakeholders, including local hospitals and MedStar member cities, emphasized the importance of preserving the independence of the Office of the Medical Director in the future EMS system.

Background: The evaluation of the EMS system was prompted by various factors, including reductions in healthcare revenues for Tarrant County EMS provider MedStar. Uncompensated care within the EMS system forced MedStar to spend approximately $350,000 per month in reserves to keep the EMS system operating. Even though the City of Fort Worth earmarked $4.2 million in transitional funding to assist the provider, MedStar was able to balance its budget for the current fiscal year. Fitch’s evaluation of the EMS system included a review of MedStar’s existing organizational structure, processes, financials, call volume, facilities, first responder engagement and needs of the 13 other member cities.

The Fort Worth City Council awarded the contract for the EMS study to Fitch & Associates on Oct. 31, 2023. Fitch is a well-known public safety consulting firm that has worked with various Texas municipalities and public sector clients.

The Ad Hoc Committee, appointed by Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker, is chaired by Councilmember Carlos Flores and includes Councilmembers Macy Hill, Jared Williams, Elizabeth Beck and Charles Lauersdorf.

National peer cities used for benchmarking included Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Ind.; Jacksonville and Pinellas County in Florida; Mecklenburg and Wake counties in North Carolina; Reno Nevada; Richmond, Va.; San Diego and San Jose in California; Seattle Wash; and Tulsa Okla. In Texas, benchmark organizations include Arlington, Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Travis County.

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