Proposal would help North Las Vegas coffers

First responders in North Las Vegas were fighting each other for business just 18 months ago.

Now, the feud between the city's Fire Department and MedicWest has cooled, and the private ambulance service appears ready to hand over some of its customers to help the cash-strapped city.

Early last year, to save jobs, the department floated a proposal to take over the transportation of more emergency patients to hospitals instead of turning them over to private ambulance services. The department would bill insurance companies for the service.

The proposal, met with opposition from MedicWest employees and others who said it would lead to layoffs in the private sector in favor of public-sector workers, was shelved.

On Wednesday, officials from MedicWest told the City Council it had struck a tentative deal with the Fire Department that would bring more revenue to the city.

That deal would allow the department to more than triple the number of patients it transports to the hospital and would bring in an estimated $600,000 in six months, Fire Chief Al Gillespie said Thursday. Then the two sides will re-evaluate the agreement "to make sure we were on target," he said.

"It was a great compromise for everybody," he said. "It made us all feel better about how we work together."

The extra revenue was included in a budget plan the council approved Wednesday that included laying off 21 employees and shutting down the two city-run recreation centers to help bridge a $4.4 million shortfall in the city's fiscal 2012 budget. Those cuts could be lessened, and the centers saved, if the city is able to come to concession agreements with its two police unions soon.

The details of the agreement between the department and MedicWest were still being finalized, Gillespie said. The department would assume more emergency transport services for 911 "delta level" patients -- the most seriously sick or injured -- and traffic accident patients in the city. Now rescue units in the department average fewer than one transport each day. Under the agreement, they would average 3½ transports a day, Gillespie said.

The cost to the department for taking over those transports will be minimal because the department already responds to 911 emergency calls, Gillespie said. It simply would stop handing over the transports to MedicWest.

The company has franchise agreements with Clark County, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas.

MedicWest officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at or 702-383-0285.