Dignity Health wants to provide ambulance service for its patients. But existing ambulance companies oppose Dignity’s application with the state.

The health system that owns and operates St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center is seeking state approval to operate its own ambulances.

But Dignity Health’s decision to pursue its own non-emergency transportation has met stiff resistance from current ambulance providers seeking to protect their turf.  

American Medical Response, the ambulance company that currently provides the bulk of non-emergency transports for Dignity-owned facilities, has even moved to terminate its contract with Dignity.  

AMR said the contract dispute won’t disrupt ambulance services for Dignity patients, but it could result in higher medical transportation bills for Dignity.

AMR insists those higher charges won’t trickle down to consumers and health insurance plans. Patients who use the service include the medically frail who need rides from their homes to appointments at Dignity-owned facilities as well as trips between Dignity facilities.

Ambulance industry woes common in Phoenix

Sharp disagreements and public infighting are common in the metro Phoenix ambulance industry when new entities try to break into the market for non-emergency and 911 municipal contracts. Mergers also have winnowed competition, with rivals buying each other. 

The Arizona Department of Health Services must authorize a “certificate of necessity” for any new ambulance company that wants to serve a particular geographic region. Dignity filed an application in June 2016 through a company it mostly owns and controls, Community Ambulance, to provide non-emergency ambulance service in Maricopa County. 

When a company applies for such a certificate, it opens a public process that allows competitors to “intervene” with state hearings before an administrative law judge. 

That’s exactly what Maricopa County’s largest ambulance company, AMR, has done, filing paperwork with the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings to oppose…