By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
The City of Yukon will pay $13,000 monthly to help subsidize the city’s ambulance service.
The Yukon City Council, at its Dec. 1 meeting, approved Pafford Emergency Medical Services (EMS) of Oklahoma assuming Yukon’s current ambulance services agreement.
“This is essential to our city,” Yukon Mayor Shelli Selby said. “If we have to wait 20, 30, 45 minutes for an ambulance to come from Oklahoma City, that would be very devastating.”
The Hope, Ark.-based company recently purchased Samaritan EMS, which had been Yukon’s 24-hour-a-day ambulance provider since 2018.
“The management of the City of Yukon has had the opportunity to meet with the ownership and senior staff of Pafford EMS of Oklahoma and is satisfied that there shall not be a decline in emergency services to the City of Yukon citizens,” according to an assignment of contract signed by Mayor Selby.
Council members voted 5-0 to amend Pafford EMS’ contract to provide a monthly $13,000 stipend – equaling $156,000 annually.
“This is not an unusual request; this is not unusual at all,” Ward 3 Council Member Donna Yanda said. “We cannot afford to lose our ambulance service. We’d never get an ambulance out of Oklahoma City because we wouldn’t be a priority.”
In a related item, the city council on Dec. 1 approved a $78,000 increase to the 2020-21 general fund budget to cover the new ambulance stipend. The current contract expires June 30, 2021.
At a city council meeting in October, Pafford EMS officials had asked Yukon city officials for a $175,000 annual subsidy to help cover its operating expenses.
Clay Hobbs, chief operating officer of Pafford EMS Oklahoma, told council members there was a 30% decrease in call volume and transport and a $45 increase per transport in PPE supplies due to COVID-19.
NOT A RANDOM NUMBER
The $13,000 monthly stipend was negotiated by Yukon City Manager Jim Crosby and Pafford EMS officials.
“That’s what they needed to do business with us,” Selby noted. “It wasn’t a random number.”
Through its agreement with the City of Yukon, Pafford provides two “dedicated” paramedic ambulances with EMS crews in Yukon.
Some of the company’s operating costs are covered through ambulance subscriptions. Yukon residents can “opt-in” to the program and pay a $3.75 fee on their monthly utility bills.
Some 6,548 of the City of Yukon’s roughly 8,800 utility customers have ambulance memberships.
Assistant City Manager Tammy Kretchmar shared data showing why Pafford was asking for the $13,000 monthly subsidy.
In 2018-19, ambulance memberships in the City of Yukon generated $327,759.05. In 2019-20, the total was $311,122.13.
“So, you can see there’s already a decline,” Kretchmar told city council members. “So far this year, the total is $126,081.57. So, they’ve had a lot of people who have opted out of the program.”
She surmised the decline has been due largely to the economy and some people’s desire to reduce their utility bills.
A NEW SPACE?
Pafford’s contract with the City of Yukon requires their ambulances to have 90% compliance to an 11-minute response time in Yukon city limits. They are maintaining an 8:36 response time.
Pafford EMS, which now houses its ambulances and personnel at a station on Industrial Drive, could be paying back some of the new monthly stipend to the City of Yukon.
“While we will be paying $13,000 to them, they have decided that they would like to lease our old fire station number two to station their ambulances rather than on Industrial where they have been,” Kretchmar said.
This move is not only expected to provide a better ambulance response time, but also generate $2,200 in monthly rental income for the City of Yukon.
Repairs still must be done to the building that formerly housed Yukon fire station two, on S Ranchwood near the police department.
The Yukon Fire Department does not operate the city’s ambulance service because of the “astronomical” personnel and equipment costs, Kretchmar explained.
Meanwhile, Pafford EMS recently bought two new ambulances – with cardiac monitors and ventilators – which will debut in Yukon.
Pafford – which also services El Reno, Piedmont and Union City – is Oklahoma’s second largest ambulance provider (behind Emergency Medical Services Authority) covering nearly 20% of the state’s population.
The company – which started in 1967 – operates about 175 ambulances and services communities in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.