Last week Southwest Ambulance workers (Southwest is a subsidiary of Rural/Metro) voted to authorize their union management to call a strike in Pima, Pinal, and Maricopa Counties. The union’s management hasn’t yet called for a strike and hopefully both parties will continue to negotiate and reach a deal. If they do decide to call a strike, they’re required to provide a 10-day notice before the strike begins.
We asked Rural/Metro for a plan that details how they plan to ensure adequate ambulance services in each of their service areas (called Certificates of Necessity) in the event of a strike. We received that plan yesterday and will be reviewing it over the next few days. In the meantime, the Bureau of EMS & Trauma System is working on a scalable contingency plan that includes:
- An assessment of resources that would be available to support (partially or entirely) each CON operated by South West ambulance. This includes both 9-1-1 service and inter-facility transports.
- A public notice seeking applicants to operate ambulance services under temporary authority.
- Temporary certificates (that I can rapidly issue) allowing an organization to operate an ambulance service in affected CON areas.
- Our EMS and Trauma System team is prepared to assist in case Southwest Ambulance needs to call in EMTs and Paramedics from out of state to meet their obligations. We now have on-line certification, which means we have an easy way to quickly certify out-of-state EMTs and Paramedics if they’re in the National Registry (which is the industry standard these days).
Hopefully, Southwest Ambulance and the union will come to an agreement that avoids a strike, but fortunately, we have several tools available to us to make sure that the people of Arizona don’t suffer from reduced ambulance services if there is a strike.