The Windsor-Severance Fire Rescue board voted last week to explore other options — including a potential switch to University of Colorado Health — for its ambulance services, saying the existing contract with Banner Health simply did not meet its expectations.
The board then entered into a nonbinding letter of intent — an agreement to talk — with UC Health to explore new service options, though only talks have started and no new contracts have yet been signed.
Services will not be interrupted while the board explores alternatives in the coming months, and no exact timeline is known.
Stephanie Buchholtz, president of the WSFR board, said members unanimously agreed that the contract discussed with Banner throughout the summer did not adequately represent the group’s focal points, including clinical excellence, response time and reliability, economic efficiency and customer satisfaction.
She said specific areas where the document lacked were “confidential” because of the ongoing contract negotiations.
“As a board, we’re striving to do what we were elected to do,” she said Friday. The contract “did not assure us the types of services — the goals — we needed for our citizens.”
Banner is a nationally recognized leader in the health care industry and employs more than 35,000 people across the country, according to its website. It has a lengthy history of medical care in the area and became the sole ambulance service in Weld County earlier this year, taking over from Weld County paramedics through at least 2017 — a move WSFR was wary of and that other community leaders praised.
“They were quick to develop an agreement with us, meeting what our expectations and needs were for emergency transport services,” Greeley City Manager Roy Otto said Friday. “They’ve been working great with us. We’re completely pleased.”
While Greeley continues to reap the benefits, smaller towns, including Windsor and Johnstown, have questioned whether they’re truly getting the best end of the deal, even though county commissioners often stressed there would be very few noticeable changes.
Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said the recent discussions by smaller districts and municipalities of whether to leave are typical after any transition.
“That’s a decision that is between Banner Health and any of the fire districts,” Kirkmeyer said. “That’s a discussion they need to have. These discussions happen all the time.”
Meanwhile, Commissioner Sean Conway acknowledged the rights of municipalities to leave the five-year agreement with Banner. Though complete approval was possible — though challenging — he questioned what the need to leave really was, adding that he had not heard of any complaints under the new system.
“What (towns) will incur is dramatically increased costs to their residents,” he said, noting the hidden costs including communication towers, dispatch centers and further state licensing if they choose to move away from the North Colorado Medical Center system.
“I’m a little bit perplexed about where this is coming from,” he added.
A statement from Banner Health was unavailable Friday.