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EDITORIAL: Undercutting the private sector

The valley’s deficit-spending local governments should be focused on reducing costs and encouraging private-sector job growth. Instead, the Las Vegas Fire Department is expanding its empire at the expense of taxpaying jobs.

New Las Vegas Fire Chief Willie McDonald has ordered his firefighters to transport more patients in department ambulances, even though American Medical Response pays almost $400,000 per year to the city to handle that job.

Mr. McDonald believes the city can profit from the power play by billing patients, health insurers, Medicare and Medicaid, and eventually handle 75 percent of patient transports by September 2015 — provided the city buy more equipment and hire more firefighters. It’s a misguided money grab.

The fundamental problem with this pursuit is cost. City firefighters earn between two and four times what AMR paramedics earn. How is that an efficient use of city resources? Especially when taxpayers would subsidize a service capably delivered by a business that pays for the privilege?

The city doesn’t have enough ambulances to handle the task without compromising response times. The valley’s mental health crisis has left emergency rooms so crowded ambulances often must wait more than 30 minutes to transfer their patients. And it’s doubtful the city can collect money from every patient it transports.

If the City Council doesn’t rein in Mr. McDonald, it will cost AMR paramedics their jobs. Unfortunately, such hostility toward business is nothing new at City Hall. The best way to fix the city’s dual response system for medical emergencies is to get the city out of the transport business.

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