Effect of Fuel Prices on Emergency Medical Services in the U.S

Abstract

The given paper explains about the impact of fuel prices on emergency medical services. It studies the impact of this issue especially in context of the United States. The paper analyzes the responses of patients in regard to this critical issue. Subsequently, it analyzes the problems faced by the various affected individuals as a result of fuel prices. In addition, this paper discusses about the efforts made by various emergency medical services to resolve the problems posed by this issue. The paper researches the issue from a wide variety of perspectives and develops a fair understanding about it. Finally, the paper includes information and facts from reliable sources in order to ensure a high degree of credibility.

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Introduction

An emergency medical service is a service providing out-of-hospital delicate care and brings to ultimate care, to patients with illnesses and injuries. The most general and renowned EMS type is an ambulance association. EMS also encompasses services developed to move critically ill patients from one general hospital to a tertiary hospital for highly specialized care such as neonatal or pediatric care, severe burns, spinal injury or neurosurgery.

Emergency Medical Services in the United States:

EMS in the United States is regulated at its basic level by the central government, who sets the basic standards that all states must meet; but much more strictly by individual state governments, who often need higher standards of the services they manage.

Emergency Medical Services Corporation is recognized by the name of Medical Services L.P., or EMS LP. Its business is conducted principally through two working subsidiaries, American Medical Response or AMR, and EmCare Holdings or EmCare. Emergency Medical Service Corporation is a most important contributor of emergency medical services in the United States. It operates its business and markets their services under the AMR and EmCare brands. Foremost provider of ambulance transport services in the United States is AMR. EmCare is the leading provider of outsourced crisis department staffing and managing services in the United States.

It is working from last 50 years and its subsidiary AMR has developed the leading network of ambulance transport services in the United States. It’s another subsidiary EmCare is working from last 30 years and has become the largest supplier of outsourced emergency department staffing and related executive services to healthcare amenities based on number of contracts with hospitals and associated physician groups. EMS key factors and measurements they use to evaluate their business are focused on the number of patients they treat and transport and the costs incur to provide the necessary care and transportation for each of their patients (10-q: Emergency Medical Services L.P., 2008 )

EMS exists to fulfill the basic principles of first aid, preserve life and avert further injury and promote recovery. These agencies serve the general public who can’t afford expensive medical services.  These are some basic objectives of emergency medical services in United States:

Early exposure
Early treatment
Early retort
Good on Scene Care
Care in journey
Transfer to authoritative care
The aim of EMS is to present treatment to those in need of critical medical care, with the goal of either satisfactorily treating the malady, or arranging for timely removal of the patient to the next point of definitive care. This is most likely an emergency department at a hospital or another place where physicians are available.

EMS agencies depend on volunteers for staffing and fund-raising for revenue, which is most difficult. Certainly, it is a most difficult challenge For Emergency medical service to continue to relieve the timely response of a basic life support ambulance and help in any form.  EMS in United States is preparing and serving public safety for effective response to manage terrorist and other events like road accidents etc.

Reason behind increased Fuel Prices:

Hike in gas prices reduces the sales of trucks and it causes loss to automakers. The tourism business is declining due to increased fuel prices. Transportation systems charge higher shipping fees. Emergency Medical services are affected to a great extent by increased fuel prices because these agencies are working on their own to serve society.

In the wealthier countries, oil prices are boosting price rises, which creates many difficulties for the central banks. In response to these rises, central government is raising interest rates so that they can maintain balance in economy. The increased fuel prices force companies to cut production, which results in reduced growth and increased unemployment. This increase in fuel prices depends on many factors like currency changes and, speculation, etc. When the dollar is weakened, some analysts consider that money will be flowed into oil & foodstuff, gold and other stiff assets as a hedge against the loss and this will raise the price (Westell, 2008).

Effect of Fuel Prices on Emergency Medical Services in U.S

Mounting fuel prices are creating problems in front of Emergency Medical Services of U.S. These fuel prices are growing frequently which causes a lot of difficulty for volunteer departments because they are having a limited budget for the country- or city-owned to serve.  In response to this hike in fuel prices no one is going to compensate these volunteer departments for their responding to help. These emergency medical services are not pooled with lot of money, they have a limited budget. So the resource allocation should be done in a careful way (Barrett, 2008).

Medical executives of these services are focusing their attention on “price, value and exposure”. At the same time, they are concentrating on rising energy prices, mainly of oil. Every one knows that petrochemicals are directly used to manufacture analgesic, antibiotics, sterile, cough syrups, lubricants, creams, salves and many gels. Processed plastics which are made with oil and used in heart valve and other medical equipments are also a product of petrochemicals. Ambulances and helicopter which save lives of people particularly depend on gas (Freakonomics, 2008).

Subsequent to this hike emergency services are facing the situation of little gas in their vehicles and they are not able to decide whether they should respond to a call or not. These emergency services are trying their level best to serve all calls in despite of hike in fuel prices because their main aim to start this service is to serve people. These are some major effects on emergency medical services with the hike in fuel prices:

It effects on the health of people living in United States.
It will affect country’s economic growth which is closely linked with country’s oil consumption.
Compassionate aid will be affected because it is totally dependent on oil-based vehicles (trucks, planes etc) for transportation of materials like food, water and medicines for personnel.
Hike in fuel prices will diminish the disposable incomes and government surpluses which indirectly helps in currently fund aid efforts of Emergency Medical Services.
Oil price increases will result in larger percentages of household incomes for fulfilling their need of gas in heating, food preparation, personal transport etc. This will result in decrease the amount of money available to buy food, medicine, and other essentials.
Existing and currently planned large infrastructure designed equipments for providing medical services will be difficult to operate due to increase in gas prices.
Hike in fuel prices are leaving hundreds of elderly and helpless people unable to attend essential medical arrangements.
Rising costs of diesel and petrol are forcing volunteer drivers of EMS to cut their number of trips offered by them to the sick and disabled persons (Roth, 2006).
The increasing price rise in US is showing its effect on the emergency service providers.
The hike in fuel prices above $4 per gallon for gasoline and around $5 for a gallon of diesel, are hitting the budget of these providers. According to an estimate a normal ambulance consumes about 10 to 12 miles per gallon of diesel. The escalation in prices will make things for worse for EMS as they will fall $500,000 short of their budget. EMS is estimating to spend $225,000 in the coming year. This amount marks an increase of $90,000 increase from the current budget.

The county commissioner had approved a $16.1 million budget for this current year which had special allocation for offsetting the higher price of fuel. According to an estimate last year, EMS had made an allocation of $125,000 in its budget for combating prices of fuel, oil and tires .This allocation was just enough for that year. Most of their ambulances have to spend their maximum time on the road. This has further alleviated their concerns of rising oil prices.

This hike in fuel prices will create scarcity of petroleum, which in addition will affect the health system and health care in at least these ways:

•    Medical provisions and apparatus

•    Food production.

•    Transportation

Medical provisions and apparatus: Mostly all the pharmaceuticals whether it is aspirin or antibiotics are made from petroleum derivative. Most of them can be synthesized through alternating chemical pathways. Increased fuel prices may increase their production costs.

Numerous medical provisions contain plastics derived from petroleum such as bandages, syringes and tubing, oxygen masks, speculums and hearing aids. Consequently, petroleum scarcity will result in rising prices, which is surely a major concern for emergency medical services.

Transportation: Transport is essential to every health care service. It includes ambulances, medical emigration helicopters, and airplanes that transfer patients to the hospitals. Public health personnel such as volunteers helping patients, rodent control staff, and visiting nurses traveling their community are totally dependent on petroleum. Automobiles are the most important means bringing most of the health workers to work and most patients to their medical arrangements. All these health facilities depend on transportation of individuals and goods.

Food production: Agricultural global food production has increased considerably due to the Green Revolution, which is a permutation of automation, irrigation, agrochemicals, and ground-breaking plant strain. All of these things require petroleum. Petroleum scarcity due to increased fuel prices will result in more costly and maybe scarcer food. This may intimidate the health of poor people who are not able to get medical services and are totally dependent on emergency medical services. Hence, we can conclude that these emergency medical services will be affected by increased fuel prices.

Some other effects of peak petroleum on health are more exploratory. These higher petroleum prices would cause a persistent economic recession, which will increase the ranks of the uninsured persons. This increase will disturb the social life and in return it will create a substantial load of concern, hopelessness, and other psychosomatic ailment. This gas resource scarcity, including petroleum scarcity will possibly generate prepared conflict, which will pose manifold risks to public health, (Doctors assess public health threat of peak oil, 2007).

Action Taken by EMS Services to Resolve This Problem

Rising fuel prices as discussed above have been hitting the emergency services. Since past few years U.S. gasoline prices have nearly doubled leading to problems in the budgeting. But Emergency Medical Services is not cutting down on services to counter this situation. EMS is doing continuous effort to respond the calls they are getting every day as they used to do before increase in fuel prices. EMS has analyzed the whole situation and also taken certain steps in order to combat this problem. These steps are given below:

There is a continuous emphasis on de-escalating the total cost by focusing on economy of vehicle’s fuel.
EMS is directing its efforts on increasing the efficiency of transport system.
EMS is concentrating on reducing administrative trips. Moreover they are going for maximum consolidation of these trips.
EMS is charging a fuel fluctuation charge of $0.25 per mile, when fuel prices rise more than $.31 per gallon above the original price as per the records (Emergency Medical Services Ambulance Rates and Charges, 2008).
In case of a price rise, the ambulance services may file a petition with EMS committee for making impermanent surcharge pertaining to services. This petition would be inclusive of the amount of the suggested surcharge, the reason, the time frame and adequate financial data to support this hike (Emergency Medical Services Ambulance Rates and Charges, 2008).
EMS is purchasing more fuel efficient cars to reduce the problem arising out of fuel price escalation.
They are continued to leave the trucks running at scenes so that it can become cool for patients.
EMS is adopting the policy of “no idling” for its vehicles. They are taking measures to bringing down idling of the vehicles at meals and the station (Bailey & McDowell, 2008).
EMS are taking measures which are consistent with the local government policy of making policies of making allocation in the budget for rising prices while continuing searching  for other methods to save fuel.
EMS is trying to switch to other brands which are cheaper.
EMS is searching for certain maintenance software for their vehicles which would improve its efficiency.
The top officials at EMS are showing concern about the fuel issue by making certain small but significant steps in this direction.
Steps used by EMS include using their own vehicle, turning off lights and usage of natural lights in the office.
EMS has called for turning off their engines of the ambulances when temperature seems to be mild.
EMS has been taking certain steps to save money like renovating their old vehicles in place of buying new ones.
EMS is even using Synthetic oil to combat this problem of rising prices of fuel. This oil has been artificial made as a substitute of lubricating oil.
Synthetic oil usually costs more than conventional oil, but it extends the time between oil changes.
They are even looking at other ways for reducing fuel usage like using hybrids in county vehicles at the time of replacing assessor’s cars.
EMS is trying to be conservative but not at the cost of the quality of its services. There are certain limitations as far these services are concerned. It is not a feasible idea for ambulances as they have the responsibility of victim’s life. They have to be at the spot for treating the victim. They have to keep the lights of their ambulance on, while on the road and they have to keep their engines warm in the winter.

There might be a problem in re- ignition of the engine in case the engines are used in intervals. There cannot be a compromise on victim’s life. The main goal of EMS is to improve upon the efficiency of its transport system by emphasis on vehicle’s fuel economy. But the results of these steps are not so encouraging. This indicates that EMS has a long way to go as far their energy conservation policy is concerned.

      Although the top management at EMS doesn’t see this hike as a major problem but they are well aware of what lies ahead. Fuel prices are likely to rise in future. Instead of going for subsidies or minimization of fuel prices, they should rather go for energy conserving methods. EMS still has to unravel a better solution to this problem.

Conclusion

The health system momentarily undertakes energy emergency arrangement by following the 1973 and 1979 oil crises, however these efforts were short-term. With hike in fuel prices, such arrangements should be recognized as a part of all emergency medical services. This planning for peak petroleum can build an existing system comprehensive in emergency services. This planning must include forecasting and scenario-building. At least 2 kinds of scenarios must be developed, subsequent to sensitive and never-ending shortages. Short interruptions of fuel possibly will last for days to weeks. Experience gained from the early 1980s crisis can serve as a beginning point for planning.

Promising solutions to fight with this hike feature several common themes. A few of the important solutions are reducing unnecessary travel, conserving energy, recycling, and dropping misuse. These strategies will not only help blunt the effects of high petroleum prices, but also yield some benefits together with greater physical activity, climate change lessening, cost savings, and reduced environmental pollution. Repetition of message, especially in susceptible systems and supply chains will help in preventing critical system failures and shortages (Doctors assess public health threat of peak oil, 2007).

 Medical leaders of emergency services should highlight the correlation among fossil fuels and climate change and also have a word authoritatively about the health consequences of various unconventional fuels. As the fuel prices have an influence over a wide variety of aspects, the sector of health services is no different to this situation. Hence, it is observed that fuel prices make a significant impact on the emergency health services in United States.

It is essential to develop an appropriate framework to deal with the implications of this issue and maintain the quality of emergency health services. At the same time, some immediate measures need to be taken to minimize the effect of fuel prices on all services which have a great deal of significance for common people. Such an approach will surely assist in dealing with issues of such nature in the years to come.

References

Bailey, R. (2008, June). Emergency services hit by high gas prices. Retrieved July 18, 2008, from http://www.mcdowellnews.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=MMN%2FMGArticle%2FMMN_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1173355678499&path=!news!localnews

Barrett, B. (2008, July). High fuel prices cut volunteer firefighters’ response. Retrieved July 18, 2008, from http://www.mcclatchydc.com/244/story/43686.html

Doctors assess public health threat of peak oil. (2007, October). Journal of the American Medical Association. Retrieved July 18, 2008, from http://postcarboncities.net/node/1626

10-q: Emergency Medical Services L.P. (2008). Retrieved July 18, 2008, from http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/10-q-emergency-medical-services-lp/story.aspx?guid=%7BAA0FA65D-3F2B-451B-8282-7C0D05943029%7D

Freakonomics. (2008, June).  High Gas Prices: The Environment’s Best Friend. Retrieved July 18, 2008, from http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/04/high-gas-prices-the-environments-best-friend/

Roth, P. (2006, December). Third World Public Health and Peak Oil. Retrieved July 18, 2008, from http://peakoilmedicine.com/2006/12/

Westell, D. (2008, July). What’s behind today’s high prices? Retrieved July 18, 2008, from http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2008/07/08/f-oil-prices.html

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