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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Spotsy hospital ups pressure on the city to change its ambulance policy

The cover of Spotsylvania Regional's direct mailer.

Officials of the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center haven’t had much luck getting Fredericksburg ambulance crews to bring patients there.

So hospital officials now are trying to enlist city residents in the campaign.

The hospital mailed 9,000 brochures to city addresses last week. The brochures ask residents to tell city officials to give patients a choice.

“When your health is involved, don’t take no for an answer,” the brochure says.

The mailers began arriving in homes and businesses last Friday and continued this week. Jeanne Burkett, hospital spokeswoman, declined to say how much the hospital paid for the campaign.

The brochure describes the city’s 22401 ZIP code as a “great place to live, work and play. Unless you want care at Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center.”

The hospital criticizes city officials for not giving ambulance patients who do not have life-threatening emergencies a choice of where to go.

“You can change that,” the flier adds.

The hospital asks city residents to email Fire Chief Edwin Allen, call the city Fire Department, or return a postage-paid card.

Burkett said Spotsylvania Regional and HCA, its parent company, wanted to make residents aware of the city’s transport policy and argue for a change.

“One of the main reasons HCA came into this market was because there was no choice,” Burkett said. “What Fredericksburg is doing is denying them the right to do that when they’re in an emergency situation.”

The Fredericksburg Fire Department and the Fredericksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad take ambulance patients to Mary Washington Hospital. With few exceptions, crews don’t go to Stafford Hospital, the Freestanding Emergency Department at Lee’s Hill or Spotsylvania Regional, even if patients request it.

City officials insist that Mary Washington Hospital is the best choice for them, given the number of ambulance crews on duty and the distances to other hospitals. Fredericksburg Fire has two paid crews on duty during daylight hours, Monday through Friday. The Fredericksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad covers the city at nights and on weekends, often with one unit.

Michael Jones, deputy fire chief for the city, said Tuesday that, despite Spotsylvania Regional’s campaign, city policy is unlikely to change.

“It’s all driven by assets, the lack of staffing, the lack of available units,” Jones said. “Unless that would change for some unknown reason, I don’t think we can afford to change our policy.”

(For more about the hospital’s direct mail campaign, see the story soon in the paper. An earlier story on this topic can be found here.)