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Hospital gives city ambulance service preferential treatment

Sunnyside Community Hospital took a major step at this past Monday night's Sunnyside City Council meeting to ensure that area residents will continue to have a quality ambulance service.

Council on Monday night approved an agreement with the hospital that gives the city the right of first refusal for responding to patient calls.

Interim City Manager Mark Kunkler said the city and the hospital currently didn't have such an agreement in place. Kunkler said the benefit for Sunnyside is that the city gets the first opportunity to service patients, resulting in extra revenue for coffers. The benefit for the hospital, said Kunkler, is that patients will benefit from the close proximity of the Sunnyside ambulance service.

The term of the agreement is for 10 years. There are a couple of exemptions, noted Kunkler. First, patients do have the right to request another ambulance service. The other exemption is that patients can be transferred for immediate care if needed, even if they were transported to the hospital by another ambulance service.

Sunnyside Community Hospital Chief Executive Officer Jon Smiley was on hand at Monday's Council meeting. He had a written report available for Council. In his report, Smiley said the hospital has long been a supporter of the Sunnyside ambulance service. The hospital has made past contributions totaling $55,000 to the city to start the current ambulance service. The written report also stated the hospital board of trustees has a concern with the Council wanting to privatize the ambulance service.

"The board of trustees and members of the medical staff are concerned that should Sunnyside decide to privatize the ambulance service, there will be a diminishment of quality and availability," Smiley wrote. "Both entities have a responsibility to serve those in need of medical care in Sunnyside."

Smiley goes on to highlight that the hospital staff is very pleased with the work done by the city's ambulance personnel. Smiley's report also expressed concerns about the city losing ground with its fire protection rating, which means increased fire insurance premiums for businesses and citizens. The city currently has a level five fire protection rating. Smiley wrote in his report if the city does privatize the ambulance service that rating would fall to a level six, resulting in a 7-1/2 percent increase in fire insurance premiums.

Mayor Ed Prilucik said he was glad the city and the hospital could work together in such a manner.

"If we work together, we can benefit both the citizens and the community," said Smiley.

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