UPDATE: Is Paramedics Plus using a ‘Phantom Ambulance’ as their mutual aid?

Tonight on Stormland-TV, Investikeneke Angela is doing a story about the games PP has been playing since they implemented their ‘secret’ pilot program to help correct level zeros.

Teasers are HERE & HERE. UPDATE: Another story

The biggest concern is that PP has created fake mutual aid ambulances so that they still get the call and avoid zero level;

We’ve uncovered some of those late calls when no ambulance was available. But dispatchers no longer call it a Level Zero. Instead, it sounds something like this:

“Priority one for 980. Be advised that 980 is still on the call, 962 is at Sanford and will be clearing shortly to be enroute.”So while 980 sounds like an ambulance, it’s not, causing some to question is there is a “phantom ambulance” in Sioux Falls.

I was first told about this about a month ago (apparently the person who tipped me off went to Angela to). As I was asking questions about this and listening to different radio traffic, from talking to other ambulance service EMTs and providers in the region, one word kept coming up while describing PP’s new pilot program, “Corrupt”. And it wasn’t only competition that was saying this, one of their employees described the operations of PP as ‘F*cked’.

So how does this work if this is what they are truly doing?

It’s actually quite simple. In order to avoid a ‘level zero’ as an ambulance provider you have to make sure you have mutual aid in route to an emergency scene if all your ambulances are busy. Since PP has the contract with the city to provide exclusive ambulance service in Sioux Falls, they must call in mutual aid if all of their ambulances are busy. And they are busy quite often, making transports between SF hospitals, which is guaranteed revenue and at a lower risk. So when this happens, the accusation is that instead of calling in actual mutual aid (Like Med Star) they call a phantom service called a ‘980 to 989’. 911 dispatch of course are saying it is NOT a fake ambulance but another name for a Level Zero – Well isn’t that comforting. So while this FAKE level zero is happening, PP can finish their transport without getting called out on a ‘level zero’ and once the transport is finished, they call off the 980 and respond to the call, restarting the clock all over again. By this time, it could be over 45 minutes before the ambulance arrives. Rumor has it that in some cases people waited so long, they just had a family member drive them to the hospital, others died waiting.

While all of this sounds pretty crazy, it’s not to hard to pull off. Our health director, Jill Franken and REMSA have been tight lipped about this secret pilot program, so we have NO idea WHAT they are doing to fix the level zero calls, they refused to talk to KELO.

It will be interesting to see what Angela has uncovered, but the evidence I have been shown isn’t flattering.


#1 Emoluments Clause on 05.15.17 at 4:24 pm

Does anyone know if PP’s fleet is as big as the former provider? The reason I ask this question is because when PP first came to town they claimed that they had a proactive prepositioning policy with their fleet, so that ambulances would always be conveniently spread though- out the city to reduce response time instead of having them all come from their main garage.

But now that we are continually discovering that their fleet cannot keep up with demand, given the problem with the “Level Zero” issue, I think it is fair to say that their preposition policy was nothing but initial PR nonsense. And it potentially exposes the fact, that the real problem with current response times and the reason PP initially tried to preposition their fleet was because they were actually just trying to cut corners at the citizens expense by spending less on fleet numbers and not because they were sincerely trying to make it quicker to calls.

#2 The D@ily Spin on 05.15.17 at 6:09 pm

I saw 3 MedStar ambulances in half hour traffic today. Has anyone assumed Paramedics Plus got the contract because they paid bribes to city officials? Seems obvious.

#3 MSP on 05.15.17 at 10:01 pm

Paramedics Plus wouldn’t be able to pull it off without the help of whoever is doing their quality assurance oversight at the city and probably that person’s boss too.

So the health department personnel are either complicit in aiding Paramedics Plus to fake records to make it appear like there were more ambulances available, or they are grossly incompetent.

Considering the name change from ‘level zero’ to try and hide the ambulance shortages, they seem to know what they were doing, and that was send a big “F.U.” to the people of Sioux Falls so the corporate bigwigs at PP could enjoy larger profits.

Business acumen at its finest. The search warrants might be coming for yet another huether department head at this rate.

#4 l3wis on 05.15.17 at 10:12 pm

They could save us a lot of time and cut to the chase and just search the mayor’s office first.

#5 anominous on 05.15.17 at 10:55 pm

Wonder if that PULSE system they installed makes this possible. Seems like the main purpose for it is to help them avoid getting fined.


#6 scott on 05.16.17 at 7:09 am

where there these kinds of problems with the previous provider? someone at city hall appears to be getting something from someone to let this continue to happen. on a different note, i was talking to a firefighter the other evening. he is also a certified paramedic. he said it’s frustrating for him, and others in the fire department who are certified paramedics, not to be able to do things they are capable of doing, while waiting for the ambulance to show up.

#7 Anonimus medic on 05.21.17 at 6:03 pm

Let me educate and try to enlighten some issues. I have concerns with the company for I work at the parent ems company in Texas. Here is the main problem, you own a company and want to provide quality care but also make a profit. You bid the contract with x amount of ambulances based off of historical 911 call volume. The pulse is simply a program that gathers data of the greatest concentration of previous 911 calls and suggests placing ambulances near those areas, hence no stations and ambulances all over the city. Here lies the problems. You have someone come in and call 911 for a stumped toe and you send an ambulance, then other calls come in and your resources shrink. If you’re down to two available ambulances then you position within the city no longer based on the pulse but to cover the whole area. In perfect world we would have sufficient ambulances for true 911 calls but society uses 911 as a taxi. To be fare they probably need to add more units, but that would mean going to your city for more money. And an adage I believe in is you will always run out of ambulances at some point, you can have 100 ambulances on a said day and 101 911 calls will come in. In my city we go level zero often throughout the day. We still meet compliance of 90%. If you are wanting 100% compliance then reach for your wallet and pay for more ambulances. I do agree the 980 is odd and never heard of such. My suggestion is to concern yourselves not about level zero or how many times you hear 980, but to ask how is compliance.

#8 l3wis on 05.21.17 at 6:43 pm

First off, when PP can’t respond to all the calls how about calling in ACTUAL mutual aid? I think that is the MAIN concern, instead of just not sending anyone.

Either way, I have often contended that SF is big enough to have a public ambulance service like LA, CA. I think it would pay for itself, especially since the SFFD is already showing up before PP at many of these calls. Let the Industrial Complex Mega-Hospitals do their own transfers.

#9 Anonimus medic on 05.21.17 at 7:17 pm

Will warn you that no city wants their own fire based ems. They only run 911 calls and 911 calls on average only have a 25-28% reimbursement. Meaning your city will cover the bill for 72-75% of patient transports. And how would you feel being double billed? Meaning your taxes pay for city services and when you need an ambulance you receive a bill for care. Do you get a bill if you call an officer out to your house? 911 ems only has been, historically, a revenue hole and a loss. If you decide to try and recoup that loss and include transfers to and from nursing homes and doctor’s offices then your in the same boat as any other service you have or have had. A smart person would want to keep the transfers, they are the ones that pay.