Sky-high fuel costs: 'What can you do?'
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - With gas prices soaring past $3 a gallon, oxygen providers in California are maximizing efficiency--and asking customers to do the same.
"If patients make us go out needlessly, we do a trip charge," said Rich King, CEO of Pro Med DME in Los Alamitos, Calif. "If they call at the last minute for tank refills, they either come here or they pay a fee. If they use a day's notice we can route it so it's efficient for us."
King described the fee as "steep."
Vince DeStigter, CEO of Jackson, Calif.-based Western Healthcare, is also adding delivery charges.
"If you figure the driver's time and the cost of fuel, it's astronomical," said DeStigter. "We're not making a dime on an oxygen patient in that case."
Michael Kuller, president of AllStar Oxygen Services in Concord, Calif., said the higher gas prices have caused his supplier to tack on a delivery surcharge.
"We're getting hit hard," said Kuller, who has decided not to pass the cost of gas onto his patients.
Careful planning and smarter routing of vehicles are part of a day's work, says Steve Vinci, general manager of Timberlake Corporation in Sacramento, Calif. His 20 delivery vehicles are equipped with GPS.
"You try to route your techs so that you get the best economies of scale," said Vinci. "What else can you do? We're in the delivery business, so we make deliveries."