Local News

Lawsuits Over La Pine Ambulance Service Dropped

LA PINE, OR -- The four-year fight over ambulance service between the La Pine Rural Fire Protection District, St. Charles Health System and the La Pine Community Health Center is over.

"We have had some disagreements over how billing should be handled for medical transports from healthcare centers," says Courtney Ignazzitto, with La Pine Community Health Center (LPCHC). The dispute was over who should pay for transporting patients to the hospital in Bend from either St. Charles' La Pine clinics or the LPCHC. In 2019 and 2021, the fire district passed ordinances allowing it to bill clinics for all ambulance rides resulting from a La Pine clinic calling 911 for a patient. 

Ignazzitto tells KBND News all sides have agreed to drop their lawsuits, and outstanding invoices for medical transports from clinics to the hospital are forgiven. The deal also includes other changes, "Our providers, when they’re on-boarded, have meetings with the fire department, with those that are making those medical transports and understanding what are the challenges they face here in La Pine." She adds, "St. Charles, La Pine Community Health Center and the fire district will sit down regularly and discuss areas that can be improved on each person’s part, and create a plan." And, "There’s one more ordinance in place that allows the billing of these transports from clinics to the hospital. That is being withdrawn." She notes that process could take several more months.  

According to Ignazzitto, the amicable resolution is in large part due to a recent change in leadership at the La Pine Rural Fire Protection District, which provides ambulance service in South County, "It’s almost a completely new board. And then, we have a new fire chief, Chief Eric Holsey. He is just a great advocate for our community."

Overall, she says, the goal is to improve communication on all sides. "Being able to put this behind us and just move forward with a fresh start is going to be really great for just that relational aspect between caregivers and first responders," says Ignazzitto, "Because they are so vital for our community." 

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