Banner Health officials said they’re disappointed that the Windsor-Severance Fire District has decided to look elsewhere for its ambulance services after months of negotiations.
For reasons officials aren’t fully explaining, the fire district opted last week to begin talks with University of Colorado Health System — formerly Poudre Valley Health System — which has been embroiled in a medical tug-of-war with Banner Health for northern Colorado market share.
Banner Health, which operates Greeley’s North Colorado Medical Center, took over Weld County’s ambulance services in May, prompting negotiations with a host of special districts on contract language for the service. The service had been operated by Weld County government since 1974, but it was costing the county millions, becoming less able to break even every year. The service hasn’t changed anything other than ownership.
“Now it’s a free enterprise,” said Todd Vess, spokesman for the Windsor-Severance Fire District. “We were in negotiations throughout the summer, and at some point there was an impasse. We needed to move on.
“The board has directed staff, saying we need to shop around,” Vess said. “UCH is being given the same courtesy that Banner was given.”
The only public reasons district officials would cite for the impasse were relating to “clinical excellence, response time and reliability, economic efficiency and customer satisfaction.”
Banner officials this week said they were disappointed by the move.
“The Weld County Paramedic Service has provided high-quality, responsive staff and services to the Weld County area since 1974 including to the Windsor-Severance area, most recently under Banner Health management,” said Rick Sutton, North Colorado Medical Center CEO in a statement provided to The Tribune. “That is one of the primary reasons it made sense for the service to become a part of the Banner Health/North Colorado Medical Center emergency and trauma department.”
The statement said Banner Health/North Colorado Medical Center submitted a contract to the district that “was designed to meet or exceed the goals and needs of WSFR and the residents of the area.”
Running without a contract for now five months doesn’t mean ambulance service will cease to respond to calls in Windsor, Vess said.
“There’s no way Banner would leave everyone without a contract high and dry,” he said.
Vess said the district is now served by three ambulance services: Poudre (or UCH), Banner and Thompson Valley, which serves rural Loveland, or the southwest portion of Windsor.
UCH, he said, already covers a quarter of the Windsor district. He said the district cannot negotiate with Thompson Valley because it’s its own special district.
Vess said the district board has set no time frame on which to reach a contract with any specific service.