Clark County would be reimbursed for firefighters transporting patients under a new rule introduced by the County Commission on Tuesday, and at least one commissioner worries that it could lead to firefighters getting bonus pay.
Firefighters now transport an average of 350 patients a year when private ambulances are delayed or unavailable. The county is paid nothing for this service.
A new state statute that must be enacted by January — the county has no choice in the matter — calls for the county to be reimbursed for fire crews transporting up to 1,000 patients per year.
Meanwhile, county officials disagree about whether a clause in the labor contract compels the county and union to bargain for bonus pay to firefighters who drive patients to hospitals.
Fire Chief Steve Smith said the county would have to create an official ambulance program like the cities of Las Vegas and Henderson have before that clause would kick in. Filling in for private ambulances in emergencies does not constitute a program, he argued.
But Commissioner Steve Sisolak said having the guidelines so clearly defined establishes a program.
"How is it not a program?" he said.
Sisolak said he doesn’t think firefighters should be paid extra for doing their jobs. And if the union forgoes the bonuses, it might consider that a concession, he added.
Ryan Beaman, head of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1908, didn’t respond Tuesday to a reporter’s calls or e-mails seeking comment.
Firefighters, who are among the highest-paid county employees, have been criticized for not making contract concessions during the budget crunch the way other local unions have.
County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said she is confident that the union won’t push to pay firefighters extra, even though the contract might allow it.
Smith said he doesn’t expect his crews will exceed 350 transports a year.
The county would be reimbursed $500 to $800 per patient, with that money going into the general operating fund. That could add up to $175,000 to $280,000 a year.
Officials at the Service Employees International Union have expressed concerns about the county cutting into American Medical Response’s ambulance business, Sisolak said. SEIU represents these ambulance workers.
But Smith insists the goal is to defray the county’s transportation costs, not compete with private ambulance companies.