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Westfield fire chief: EMS billing idea unpopular

January 28, 2016
By Jeremy Izzio ( , Westfield Republican

According to Fire Chief William Bills, the idea of in-house EMS billing through the Westfield Fire Department is currently a dead issue.

"I have had nothing but negative feedback from the current membership in regard to ambulance billing," Bills said. "The older generation likes the fact that they are serving their community. That's what they signed up to do with the idea of being volunteers and helping their brothers and neighbors. There has also been discussion about how they didn't like the way it was proposed.

"There was a year's worth of information that was compacted into an hour conversation. No written information was provided to us, etc. That has a lot to do with it. I think it is still in its infancy of consideration within the membership."

In the fall, fire law attorney Brad Pinsky gave a presentation on the benefits of switching to a paid EMS model to members of the public, fire department and representatives from the village and town boards.

Pinsky is the author of "Fire Department Law and Management Resource Manual," which is owned by hundreds of fire departments throughout New York state. He frequently lectures throughout the nation and is the host of Fire Engineering's monthly radio show, "Fire Service Court Radio." He also spearheaded the movement for EMS billing to become an option for municipalities.

Bills has since reached out to Pinsky but further information on the process was not provided.

"I solicited Brad Pinsky three times after the presentation to ask if he could forward me a copy of his presentation," Bills added. "Well, he doesn't have it since he shoots off the cuff and talks as things come to him because he 'has done it so many times.' Or he tells me to go on his website and print it off. I've been on the site twice and scoured it but I couldn't find it. ... I'm not saying (paid ambulance service) is a dead issue, but it's dead right now."

The topic of EMS billing was brought up at a recent village board meeting with concerns over the impending cost of upgrading the fire department's radios in order to maintain contact with the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office on its new frequency.

Trustee Dave Brooker brought up the idea of billing being able to supply future funding for the department, which prompted Bills' response.

"A local resident recently had an emergency issue and I think the total cost for the mileage and use of the ambulance was about $1,800," Brooker said. "That could come back to the village and certainly help build a fund for equipment for the fire depart



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