EMS provider facing $3.5 million shortfall, plans to request public funding

Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 6:59 PM EST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Fort Wayne’s ambulance provider is already battling a paramedic shortage, and while it’s improving, it comes at a cost.

At Thursday’s Three Rivers Ambulance Authority board of directors meeting, TRAA Executive Director Joel Benz announced they have been operating at a deficit. Benz says they only have two months worth of payroll left in their budget.

TRAA is looking at a $3.5 million shortfall and Benz says he’s going to ask for public funding to help them keep providing emergency services.

“Our budget unfortunately doesn’t support some of the changes we’ve made,” Benz said. “We’re operating at a deficit and we knew we would.”

The ambulance provider has seen delayed response times among other issues. Benz says he’s been making a lot of changes to curb the ongoing paramedic shortage at TRAA. Those changes include pay increases for their paramedics and EMTs. Now, those problems are beginning to improve but the money is running out.

“The administration asked us to operate at a deficit and spend down some of our reserves and now we are reaching that with salaries,” he said. “We probably have about two months left.”

Benz plans on asking the city and the county for taxpayer money. He says he’s already had informal conversations with the mayor and county commissioners and they’ve been supportive.

“They understand the value of our service,” he said. “In the past we’ve had such bad compliance times and that was a bad look for our organization and nobody wants to see anyone suffer.”

He says he plans to point to TRAA’s improvements when he makes the funding request. An ambulance is required to arrive at an emergency in less than eight and a half minutes in order to be compliant. In January, TRAA was compliant 84.4% of the time compared to 64% this time last year.

Benz says there’s no need to panic about this situation as he plans to make his request soon.

21Investigates reached out to the mayors office for comment and they shared the following statement:

21Investigates also reached out to the county commissioners office for comment and they shared the following statement:

Benz says he does not have a specific timeline for when he will make his formal request.