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New ambulance service coming to area of Yavapai County plagued by emergency response issues

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Posted at 9:15 AM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-22 20:02:05-04

PRESCOTT, AZ — A northern Arizona community that has expressed concern about emergency response times and lack of resources will soon be getting more ambulances.

The Arizona Department of Health Services issued a Certificate of Necessity to Priority Ambulance for emergency and non-emergency service to most of Yavapai County and portions of Coconino and Maricopa Counties, the company said Wednesday.

The Certificate of Necessity (CON) is required for companies to operate ambulance services in communities, showing there is a need for more service.

“The City of Prescott and the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority (CAFMA) provided letters to ADHS in support of issuing a CON to an additional ambulance service provider in their area,” the company said in a news release.

The region has been dealing with increased emergency response times and ambulance issues that are impacting residents and can even trickle down to the Valley.

Previously, Life Line Ambulance was the only other ambulance provider licensed for the area. In hundreds of cases, the area has reached "level zero," meaning there are no more ambulances available to respond to calls for help.

See previous ABC15 Investigators coverage of the issue in the player below:

Level Zero

“What happens in the past is that a critical patient may be transported in the back of their personal vehicle and treated by paramedics in the backseat,” Scott Freitag, Chief of CAFMA, which covers a large area surrounding Prescott, previously told ABC15. “Some have opted to take an Uber or a Lyft or a taxi to the hospital because they couldn’t get a transport.”

Freitag’s department had been feuding with Life Line and its parent company, AMR, over ambulances response times for years. The fire department has started sending out its own unofficial ambulances on calls in case a Life Line unit is too far away.

The practice briefly had CAFMA under a state investigation, which has been closed.

“To fix this, I think we need a secondary ambulance service,” said one resident who had to drive his grandfather to a hospital during a heart attack because no ambulance was available.

Priority Ambulance says the expanded service will allow them to serve 140,000 more Arizonans.

The company is also hiring EMTs and paramedics in the North Central Arizona region. They are offering sign-on bonuses of up to $7,500.

Priority Ambulance currently operates as Maricopa Ambulance in Maricopa County, serving communities like Scottsdale, Surprise, Glendale, Goodyear, and Chandler. They offer ambulance services in 12 other states.

CAFMA also applied for its own license to operate ambulances in the area, but the status of that application was not immediately available.