What will happen with Vermilion River EMS contract?

Cary Ashby • Dec 12, 2018 at 2:00 AM

WAKEMAN — The future of Citizens Ambulance Service could be decided during a meeting Tuesday of the Vermilion River Ambulance District about contract bids for a provider of emergency medical services (EMS).

“They have notified us they have opened us up to bids,” said Lucas Palm, EMS coordinator for Citizens Ambulance, which is based out of Wakeman. “To my knowledge they have collected bids in the past, but they have not been considered competitively.”

The meeting will be at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Wakeman Township building, which is next to the fire station on Ohio 303.

In addition to Citizens Ambulance, those bids have gone out to private companies, “which are for profit,” Palm said. The contract with Citizens expires Dec. 31 and the new one — the basis of the bids — would go into effect Jan. 1.  

The board of the Vermilion River Ambulance District makes decisions on bids for EMS service and distributes taxes to the service area of Citizens Ambulance — the village of Wakeman and the townships of Wakeman, Townsend and Florence. The board consists of: President Don Daniels (representing Florence Township), Nancy Delong (Wakeman village), Chris Hilaman (Wakeman Township) and Sandy Guaderrama (Townsend Township).

“I have no concerns,” Daniels said. “Citizens has performed everything their contract has asked them to do.”

Essentially, he added the reason the board is looking into multiple bids is no different than a homeowner who is trying to get the most out of his or her money.

It’s unknown how long the new contract could be.

“It depends,” Daniels said. “It could be annual and it could be multi-year; we’ve done both in the past.”

If the board decided to give the contract bid to one of the private companies, Palm said Citizens Ambulance “would cease to exist,” but it plans to continue providing life-support services without funding if the board doesn’t make a decision Tuesday.

“That’s 40 years of service you would not get back,” he said.

Citizens Ambulance has been operating out of Wakeman since it was founded in 1978. There are three ambulances in the fleet and 20 personnel, two full-time employees and 18 part-timers.

“They are equally distributed between EMTS (emergency medical technicians) and paramedics,” Palm said. “Our volunteer board of directors, consisting of community representatives from each respective political subdivision, governs the corporation. This provides the district with local control and oversight of the ambulance service.”

At its inception, Citizens Ambulance used volunteer EMTs to operate a basic life-support ambulance.

“Today, we provide advanced life support with paramedics and EMTs standing by 24 hours a day, seven days a week from our Wakeman station. Our commitment to provide a professional-quality ambulance service, engage in community events and offer many value added benefits and community services to the district is evident with 40 years of continuous service to Wakeman and the communities surrounding the Vermilion River,” Palm said.

“Citizens Ambulance Service is a non-profit 501(c)(3) that was created by our community we serve. We are contracted by (the) Vermilion River Ambulance District to provide emergency medicine to the areas that pay into their respective tax levies. Citizens has kept their cost down for years to the local taxpayers,” according to its website, https://www.citizensambulance.com.

“Most ambulance companies make a substantial amount of their revenue on transporting (a) patient to and from local nursing homes, assisted care centers, etc. Citizens does not provide this service, as we exist solely to provide advanced life support EMS care to our surrounding communities in an emergency manner only. Citizens charges for each run we go on, but also waives all out-of-pocket costs to our patients if they or their families are a donor drive contributor.” 

Palm said Citizens Ambulance was established “when community members identified a need and desire for a community-based ambulance service to meet the need for emergency medical services of the surrounding communities.” 

“We are prepared to continue and improve upon our current operational model of providing advanced life support to the district. We strongly believe that we are positioned to offer the citizens of our district the benefits of having a community-based EMS provider owned by its residents for years to come.”

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