By early 2011, the demand on CRS for ambulance service still was rising and CRS hired enough additional people to provide a fifth ambulance crew during the daytime at its Eastern Boulevard station.
It bore that additional expense itself, but as early as last May and then solidly through the winter of 2011, “we saw a change in our net billing revenue to the negative,” Hays said.
The money it got back from billing began dropping by $10,000 a month and that has continued, he said.
Company officials don’t know whether that’s because the unemployment rate is still high and fewer workers have health insurance, he said.
“With that, we were not able to continue the staffing for that (fifth) daytime unit,” he said, and CRS also has trimmed its budget in several other areas.
But the demand for services is still there.
In 2011, CRS ran 12,970 calls — a 6.7 percent increase in one year, DES figures show. Overall, the demand on all eight EMS companies jumped by nearly as much, rising that year to 21,303 calls, which is a 6.1 percent increase.
So on March 13, the county Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association — at the request of CRS — and DES Director Kevin Lewis asked the County Commissioners to increase their special subsidy to CRS by $150,000, bringing its special staffing subsidy to $450,000. The increase would begin July 1 and continue through June 30, 2013, which is the 12 months of fiscal year 2013.
That would mean CRS could resume staffing a fifth ambulance during the daytime, Hays said.
He said that subsidy increase might only be needed for one year if the company’s billing revenues begin rising again.
“We are aggressively working on income in relation to billing,” he said.
Its own fleet
At present, CRS has seven ambulances. The extras are put into service often, when accidents or other emergenies happen, and more are needed.
And the extra ambulances replace others when they need to go out of service for maintenance.
CRS is buying two new ambulances, both of which are expected to arrive in April. One will replace an older ambulance that’s being retired and the other, because of increasing demand, is needed to expand the company’s fleet, Hays said.
In addition to the staffing subsidy, the county gives each EMS company a basic subsidy of $48,000 a year.
With three stations of its own, CRS gets $48,000 for its Eastern Boulevard headquarters and $48,000 more for its Maugansville substation. But so far, it receives nothing extra for the substation it opened in Hagerstown’s West End in 2010.
The county also reimburses each of the EMS companies for its utility bill payments, and ambulance fuel and maintenance expenses. To get paid, the companies must turn in receipts.
Each company is required to give the county an annual financial report and to meet standards covering staffing, purchasing, billing and response to calls for help.
“That money, we need to show that we aren’t going out and sending our people on vacations,” Hays said.
Giant CRS grapples with revenue fall, seeks county help
Number of ambulance calls. (March 24, 2012)