STEC EMS responds to Puente concerns

STEC boasts high-quality medical services

Ambulance

HARLINGEN — The city’s ambulance company is boasting the region’s highest-quality emergency medical services amid City Commissioner Frank Puente’s questions surrounding clauses in the contract it’s held for 40 years.

On Friday, the South Texas Emergency Care Foundation released information and statistics showing it stands as one of the top providers of EMS service in the Rio Grande Valley.

“The South Texas Emergency Care Foundation Inc. is unique among all the emergency care providers in the Rio Grande Valley,” officials stated in a document outlining the company’s history. “The foundation is not a private company in business to make a profit. Instead, it was originally created by the citizens of Harlingen in 1979 for the sole purpose of delivering emergency care to Harlingen citizens.”

Last Wednesday, STEC officials presented commissioners with an outline of its history and services after City Manager Dan Serna requested they provide information after Puente questioned the contract clause giving the company exclusive rights to serve the city.

Contract

STEC’s renewable five-year contract, which was extended in October 2017, expires Sept. 20, 2022.

EMS calls, responses

Last year, STEC responded to a total of 24,767 EMS calls, including 18,914 emergency responses, officials stated.

During Wednesday’s meeting, STEC President Jo Wagner told commissioners dispatchers across Cameron County fielded 300,000 911 calls last year.

Since it launched operations in 1979, STEC has responded to about 583,000 calls for medical assistance.

Response time

Last year, STEC boasted an average response time of 7:40, “significantly lower and better than those national standards,” officials stated.

“Although there are no laws or regulations mandating response times, generally recognized national standards for response times for cardiac arrest and stroke published by various organizations range from eight to nine minutes.”

Rates

STEC’s nonprofit status helps officials keep base rate charges for all levels of service among the lowest in the region, they stated.

Ambulance fleet

STEC features some of the highest-quality emergency vehicles in the Valley.

The foundation’s fleet consists of 16 ambulances equipped with the latest state-of-the-art in medical instrumentation, three supervisor paramedic-staffed rapid-response vehicles and one-fleet support unit.

Critical Care Transport

Since 1999, STEC has boasted “a higher level of service,” officials stated.

“A new ambulance vehicle has been acquired and is being staffed with critical care registered nurses,” officials stated. “The new Critical Care Transport team consisting of an RN or critical care provider transports critical patients from one hospital to another across the Valley. This is the first time that such a service has been provided in South Texas.”

Air transport

STEC provides air transport to hospitals outside the Rio Grande Valley.

“The foundation charters airplanes from Part 135 Operators for the fixed-wing service,” officials stated. “All services are provided and available on a 24-hour continuous basis.”

Communications center

The foundation features “a new, ultramodern communications center, equipped with the latest in 911 computer and call-taking stations, a 24-hour weather station with color weather radar and radio dispatching consoles,” officials stated.

Staff

STEC’s payroll of 82 employees includes paramedics, emergency medical technicians, registered flight nurses, 911 EMD nationally certified dispatchers along with clerical and management staff.

Board of directors

STEC’s board of directors is made up of officials from Cameron County, the cities to which the company provides service along with at-large directors.

“The composition of the board and the foundation’s membership are designed to represent the municipal-county areas served by the system and the citizens who live in those areas,” official stated.

“The foundation is governed by a board of directors consisting of stakeholders rather than stockholders,” they stated. “A sense of pride in ownership grew in the city of Harlingen and throughout the area. Local citizens have proven their willingness to support the service, and, without a doubt, they recognized the foundation as ‘their’ EMS.”

Funding help

The Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation has provided grants to fund two specific projects — an upgrade of STEC’s state-of-the-art medical and communications equipment and its new Community Paramedicine program,” in which STEC teaches residents to care for sick family members, cutting down on costly hospital visits.

Puente’s questions

Since last month, Puente has been questioning a city ordinance which prohibits other ambulance services from entering the city limits, imposing fines of up to $1,000.

In 2007, the contract granted STEC exclusive rights to provide service within the city limits.

Puente is also questioning the availability of ambulances to adequately respond to emergencies.

Puente said he also wants to compare STEC’s rates with those of other companies.

Service area:

Harlingen
San Benito
Combes
La Feria
Santa Rosa
Palm Valley
Rio Hondo
Primera
Los Indios
Rangerville
Cameron County Zone No. 2
Cameron County Zone No. 4

Base rate schedule

Brownsville — BLS rate $800/ ALS I base rate (MICU) $800/ ALS II base rate (MICU) $800/ Critical care specialty care $1,140
Corpus Christi — BLS rate $1,386/ ALS I base rate (MICU) $1,386/ ALS II base rate (MICU) $1,386/ Critical care specialty care N/A
Harlingen STEC EMS — BLS rate $795/ ALS I base rate (MICU) $910/ ALS II base rate (MICU) $1,070/ Critical care specialty care $1,600
Hidalgo County EMS proposed — BLS rate $850/ ALS I base rate (MICU) $1,200 / ALS II base rate (MICU) $1,400 / Critical care specialty care $1,600
Houston Fire EMS — BLS rate $1,826 / ALS I base rate (MICU)N/A / ALS II base rate (MICU) N/A / Critical care specialty care N/A
Los Fresnos EMS — BLS rate $650-$700 / ALS I base rate (MICU) $800 / ALS II base rate (MICU) $1,000 / Critical care specialty care N/A
McAllen-Med Care — BLS rate $850 / ALS I base rate (MICU) $1,200 / ALS II base rate (MICU) $2,100 / Critical care specialty care $2,900
Port Isabel EMS — BLS rate $1,000 / ALS I base rate (MICU) $1,100 / ALS II base rate (MICU) N/A / Critical care specialty care N/A
San Antonio EMS — BLS rate $1,876.40 / ALS I base rate (MICU) $1,876.40 / ALS II base rate (MICU) $1,876.40 / Critical care specialty care N/A
South Padre Island — BLS rate $850 / ALS I base rate (MICU) $850 / ALS II base rate (MICU) $1,200 / Critical care specialty care N/A
Willacy County EMS — BLS rate $800 / ALS I base rate (MICU) $950 / ALS II base rate (MICU) $1,100 / Critical care specialty care N/A
Medicare Emergency Allowable — BLS rate $364.55 / ALS I base rate (MICU) $432.90 / ALS II base rate (MICU) $626.56 / Critical care specialty care $740.48
Medicaid Emergency Allowable — BLS rate $240.23 / ALS I base rate (MICU) $285.28 / ALS II base rate (MICU) $412.90 / Critical care specialty care $487.97

EMS station locations:

Administration-dispatch center — 1705 Vermont Avenue, Harlingen
Station No. 1 — South 77 Sunshine Strip, Harlingen
Station No. 2 — Loop 499 at Washington Avenue, Harlingen
Station No. 3 — Fire station, Loop 499, Harlingen
Station No. 4 — Fire station, Arroyo Boulevard, Rio Hondo
Station No. 5 — Fire station, Dixieland Road, Harlingen
Station No. 6 — Fire station, Commercial Avenue, La Feria
Station No. 7 — Fire station, South Sam Houston Boulevard, San Benito

fdelvalle@valleystar.com