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State Cuts Blamed On Curtailing Medical Advances

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CBS Sacramento (con't)

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ROCKLIN (CBS13) — Doctors say a new tool in ambulances could save countless lives. There’s just one problem — one company says it can’t afford to continue to install them because of state budget cuts.

Lives are saved every day thanks to emergency medical help before a patient gets to the hospital. A high-tech monitor wirelessly transmits critical patient data to the hospital where doctors and nurses can diagnose a heart attack before they even see the patient.

“It’s incredibly important,” said Kate Carleton, a registered nurse at Sutter Roseville Medical Center. “Every minute that you can get, that you can shave off and you can get oxygen to their heart quicker is time where you’re going to save their heart muscle.”

But this new technology doesn’t come cheap. And it isn’t reimbursed by the state.

“It’s extremely expensive and we are to the point in this state where our patient population or 50 percent of our charges go unpaid,” said Jason Sorrick of American Medical Response.

The program is up and running in Placer County and AMR ambulance service planned to expand it statewide. Then the private company learned about a 10 percent cut in Medi-Cal reimbursements.

“They are not going to be seeing those programs implemented because of those cuts,” Sorrick said.

The average ambulance transport costs just under $600 dollars, but the state’s Medi-Cal program only reimburses $135, forcing EMS providers to absorb the rest. That’s why people with insurance often get charged twice the actual cost.

The state says cutting 10 percent will save more than $600 million in general fund costs each year.

But AMR worries those cuts could compromise public safety and ultimately increase response times and reduce the number of ambulances on the street.

“The state just does not simply understand that when we make these cuts they are impacting everyone and they are actually moving the EMS system backward instead of forward,” he said.

RN Carleton agrees.

“It’s concerning, it’s very concerning,” she said. “We all want to do what’s best for our patient.”

AMR says it has recently filed a lawsuit against the state to stop the cuts from taking place, but if the lawsuit doesn’t stop the cuts, the company expects them to take effect in the next few months.

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