LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Private ambulance companies, like those in Southern Nevada, are facing significant hurdles during the pandemic.
The American Ambulance Association told the federal government, in a letter first obtained by NBC, that the 9-1-1 EMS system throughout the United States is at a breaking point.
Glenn Kaspryzk, Southwest Region President for GMR, the parent company of AMR, said the pandemic has been a struggle.
"When you are on America's front-line for people when they have a 911 crisis, we really are the difference in times between life or death for them, and we can't compromise that level of service,” said Kaspryzk.
AMR Las Vegas is among the handful of private EMS companies in the American Ambulance Association, treating those with medical crises in Nevada. It's a profession that's gotten even riskier in the time of COVID-19.
"We are seeing an increase in symptomatic patients that are reporting COVID symptoms, so because of the surge in southern Nevada, that volume is now continuing to come up,” said Kaspryzk.
Hospitals and nursing homes have received more than $30 billion in federal COVID-19 relief, in April private ambulances got just over one percent of that, at $350 million.
"Well as you can imagine, those funds have been easily exhausted,” said Kaspryzk.
He said the federal government gave AMR about $4,500 dollars per ambulance, but says the pandemic has increased each ambulance's operating costs by $43,000 dollars per year.
"A lot of that largely is related to additional personal protective equipment, ya know, staffing and overtime. We have received such a fraction of that. So really to put it into perspective, the same proportion of ratio that, say, a dentist's office has received, our frontline providers who are out there working every day to protect their communities receive, that exact same percentage,” said Kaspryzk.
Kaspryzk added that the COVID-19 crisis is causing slowdowns and other issues in Medicaid reimbursement.
"It’s been a struggle, especially for the smaller ambulance companies to be able to operate and maintain service."
EMS leaders continue to wait for answers on federal relief.
"By virtue of us having such a large workforce here in southern Nevada, we're able to bring extra people in to staff up more units to be able to compensate,” said Kaspryzk.
Due to revenue loss, ambulances could get a whole lot more expensive if local Coronavirus numbers keep skyrocketing.
“We need to make sure that the community is doing the right thing to, ya know, masking up, washing their hands, social distancing,” said Kaspryzk. “So we can continue to come and help them at their time of need."
For context, private ambulance companies serve about a third of all US communities.
A representative from Las Vegas Fire & Rescue said most of the time in medical emergencies dispatch sends private ambulances.