Ambulance Chases

If you need anemergency medical vehicle, just hope you're in the right partof Maricopa County. If you're not, questionable dispatching practices could prove hazardous to your health.

Meanwhile, McDonald's investigation raised a quiet ruckus in the Sheriff's Office when it realized just how informal its 911 relationship was with Rural/Metro.

On December 9, 1994, MCSO sent a one-page agreement to Rural/Metro seeking to relieve the Sheriff's Office of any liability that might arise from Rural's dispatch operations and asking that Rural always dispatch the closest appropriate ambulance.

Rural/Metro never signed the document.
"I believe the reason it wasn't signed was that we were trying to clarify the responsibilities of this thing, more than the liability issue--especially with the Department of Health Services looking into it," says Steven Savage of Rural/Metro.MCSO deputy chief Tim Overton says that the liability and contract status has been referred to the county attorney for legal review. The County Attorney's Office would not comment.

"There's a whole bunch of questions that came out of the contract," says deputy chief Overton. "There's a whole lot of questions that came out of a meeting we had with the various fire departments in the Valley. One question begat another."
Among those questions are whether to keep Rural/Metro as a 911 dispatcher, whether to pass the job on to the Phoenix Fire Department (which has not yet been consulted) or whether to train MCSO dispatchers to handle the job.

In the meantime, move carefully through unincorporated Maricopa County. Don't have an accident. Save your heart attack for Phoenix or Glendale or Mesa. You never know where your next ambulance is coming from.

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