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Wilmington Contemplates One-Year Contract with St. Francis Hospital to Support Emergency Ambulance Service Through 2024

January 9, 2024

In response to a looming crisis in the availability of emergency ambulance transports, Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki revealed today that St. Francis Hospital, historically providing these services at no cost to the city, has faced financial challenges. In late 2023, St. Francis notified the city that it would be unable to continue offering ambulance services in 2024.

Previously, the St. Francis EMS program operated without direct cost to the city, as the hospital billed individuals through health insurance for employee and equipment expenses. However, St. Francis conveyed that this billing method was no longer covering the actual costs of the service.

File Photo: An ambulance seen in front of ChristianaCare Wilmington Hospital Friday. April 10, 2020, in Wilmington, DE. Photo By Saquan Stimpson

Mayor Purzycki explained that, in recent weeks, the city administration and St. Francis explored various funding alternatives to sustain ambulance services for city residents and businesses for at least another year. The consideration included the possibility of the city’s Fire Department incorporating an EMS transport unit, which remains a potential future option. Additionally, the city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to explore alternative ambulance service providers, but St. Francis was the sole bidder at $3.5 million.

Given the circumstances, Mayor Purzycki stated that the most pragmatic solution, for now, is for the city to allocate up to $3.5 million to subsidize St. Francis’s existing EMS system. The Mayor’s Office is seeking approval from Wilmington City Council for a $3.5 million budget amendment, sourced from the city’s budget reserve. If approved, a one-year agreement would be established with St. Francis, wherein the hospital would continue aggressive billing of individuals to minimize the required city subsidy. The billing process will be subject to a joint audit by the city and the hospital. However, Mayor Purzycki acknowledged that the financial state of the hospital’s EMS program might necessitate a substantial city subsidy. He emphasized that allowing EMS services to cease was not an option.

The City Council is anticipated to vote on the budget amendment as early as January 18.