Monday, October 28, 2013



Border ambulance leaving city with $250k in unpaid bills

Posted: Friday, October 25, 2013 9:28 am
By Curt Prendergast Nogales International

Ambulances rushing down Grand Avenue toward the downtown port of
entry are a familiar sight for Nogalians, but meanwhile the City of
Nogales is left holding the bag on about a quarter of a million
dollars in unpaid charges each year, according to finance department

Injured border crossers and patients from Mexico have proven to be a
hefty financial burden. In fiscal year 2012-13, Nogales billed the
federal government $300,058 for sending Nogales Fire Department
ambulances to pick up people at the border. Of that, the city
recouped just $47,740, said Angel Suarez, assistant director of the
city's finance department.

Suarez said the reimbursement came from the Division of Immigration
Health Services, based on its own billing scale.
A similar situation unfolded in 2011-12, with the city billing
$277,382 to pick up people at the border and only receiving $29,919.
So far in 2013-14, the city has billed $76,055 for the months of
July, August, and September -- on pace to bill about $304, 000 for
the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014 -- but has received only $5,310
in payment.

The city charges an average of $1,210 per ambulance run, which
includes NFD's base rate plus mileage, Suarez said.

NFD does not keep records of whether the person picked up at the
border was injured while jumping the fence, suffered trauma from a
car accident in Sonora, or ill with diabetes or other ailments,
according to Gerardo Castro, Emergency Medical Services director at NFD.

Department officials are talking about creating an electronic system
to track such information, but there is no specific plan to do so, he

The slight but steady growth in the number of people picked up at the
border by NFD ambulances in the past three years indicates that the
problem is not going away anytime soon.

In 2011-12, NFD transported people from the border 230 times, an
average of 19 per month. The next year that number rose to 248,
upping the monthly average to 20. So far in 2013-14, NFD has made 63
trips to the border for an average of 21 per month.
In May 2011, a new border fence was installed in downtown Nogales
that measures 23 to 30 feet high, more than twice the height of the
10-foot-high landing mat fence it replaced.
From January to May 2011, NFD made 83 ambulance runs to the border
for an average of 16 per month.

After the new fence was installed, the number of times NFD ambulances
transported someone from the border spiked from 14 in June and 17 in
July to 33 in August and 31 in September, reaching a monthly average
of 22 for the last six months of 2011 before returning to a monthly
average of 16 in the first six months of 2012.


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