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Stevenson, WA, May 21st, 2019: The decision to begin collecting payment for rescue services that are performed by Skamania County EMS (SCEMS) was made back in November 2018 when the Skamania County Public Hospital District #1 Commissioners reviewed their current billing policy. Commissioners adopted the policy change that defines the services for which fees apply. The first bill for rescue services provided by SCEMS was sent to a recipient of a 911 activated emergency rescue in April 2019.
The rescue services offered by SCEMS, those in which fees are applied, include removal of people from vehicles, confined spaces, cliffs, roadways, trails, waterways or traversable and non-traversable terrains with the use of specialized equipment.
To date SCEMS has billed 4 people for their need of rescue services, most being individuals injured on the many wilderness/hiking trails in Skamania County. These rescue services require specialized equipment, specialized training, and require multiple personnel to perform. Services provided may include, but are not limited to, packaging, leading, carrying or moving patients. Most rescues require many hours to complete and collected fees will go to the reimbursement of time spent by staff at the call, travel expenses, supplies expended, and maintenance and replacement of rescue equipment used while providing the service.
Superintendent Ann Lueders provided the statement
“We recognize that the visitors to our beautiful County do not intend to be in need of our services. But, we have a responsibility to the tax payers of Skamania County and therefore we make every effort to recuperate the expenses that are incurred while performing these necessary tasks. We, as a Washington State agency, have a duty to respond to, contact and assist injured people no matter where they are in our wilderness area. The transferring of patients back to the trailhead or down from the cliff face is the added service that we are charging for.”
SCEMS charges an ‘all inclusive’ rate for rescue services based on the total length of time spent by personnel performing the rescue. These fees cannot be collected from most insurance companies but may be covered by rescue travel insurance policies. The fee only covers a fraction of the cost associated with the performance of these rescue activities throughout Skamania County.