FAIRMONT - By the end of 2013, Gold Cross will have vacated the building it has shared for years with Fairmont's fire department and moved across town to leased space at the local Mayo medical center.
The nonprofit ambulance service has been looking for a different site since the City Council voted in the spring to amend its contract with Gold Cross to $22,404 annually - a huge hike, considering Gold Cross has leased space in the fire station, including a kitchen and sleeping area, for just $1 per year, since 2002. (According to a previous statement by the organization's chief operating officer, Paul Anderson, Gold Cross made $93,000 in contributions to the city, in-kind and direct, in the past 10 years.)
Kristofer Keltgen, ground operation supervisor, said Gold Cross conducted a comprehensive search of commercial properties for sale or lease in Fairmont, but without success.
"Simultaneously, we were working with Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont to see if there's some way we could collaborate with them," Keltgen said.
Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, the Gold Cross space at the hospital will be manned by a two-person crew. The quarters are similar to what Gold Cross used at the fire station, except the ambulances not in use will be stored in warehouse space elsewhere in Fairmont.
Since negotiations began on the lease with the city, Gold Cross has made it clear that Fairmont is not a money-maker for the organization.
"Ninety-seven percent of our calls are either under-compensated or not compensated," Keltgen said.
Several factors play into that deficit, including the low number of ambulance calls compared to other sites, and the high number of people on Medicare. Gold Cross doesn't bill for the 20 percent of calls that don't require transportation to the hospital, and it is making, on average, just 41 cents on the dollar for the rest of the calls it responds to.
"We have little control over reimbursement," Keltgen said. "That's dictated by Medicare and insurance companies."
The ambulance service also has little control over its costs, such as equipment, fuel, wages, licensing, malpractice insurance and more.
"We have other areas of operation where we're able to absorb those losses from Fairmont," Keltgen said.
Despite the difficulties, Gold Cross officials have maintained their dedication to the local community.
"We are a not-for-profit organization," Keltgen said. "We're not in business to make money; we're in business to provide a valued and needed service."