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Published: 4/1/2005

Ambulance firm shutting down

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Richard Levine, the owner of Hart Medical EMS, shows off the inside of an ambulance during an open house in December. Richard Levine, the owner of Hart Medical EMS, shows off the inside of an ambulance during an open house in December.
MORRISON / BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

MONROE - Monroe County's financially struggling ambulance provider announced it will cease operations next week.

Richard Levine, owner of Hart Medical EMS, told the Monroe County Emergency Medical Authority he no longer can afford to operate his struggling start-up business.

In Hart's place, Toledo-based ProMedica Continuing Care Services Corp. will handle emergency transports south of the River Raisin, and American Medical Response of Greenwood Village, Colo. - the county's former ambulance provider - will take responsibility for those north of the river.

Representatives of both replacement providers were at Hart's offices in Monroe yesterday interviewing Hart's approximately 40 employees for prospective positions with their firms.

"As soon as we can get things together, I'm going to bow out gracefully," an emotional Mr. Levine said yesterday by phone. "I was not able to keep it together and keep it afloat."

Mike Dempski, chairman of the Emergency Medical Authority board, said the board plans a study of what went wrong in its relationship with Hart to determine whether the guidelines under which its original bid was selected were flawed.

"I still think we stand behind the decision [to choose Hart] and the reasons for it. I think now, one of the things we have to take responsibility for, is whether we indirectly caused Hart to fail," Mr. Dempski said. "For the most part, it sounds like Hart got off to a rough start with mismanagement, and that was a major problem that started them off on the wrong foot. But patient care has been excellent throughout."

After the study, the county EMA board may decide to amend its original bid requirements, which included not less than six ambulances and a locally operated dispatch center, before putting the county's ambulance contract out for bid again, Mr. Dempski said.

Gladeen Roberts, president of ProMedica Continuing Care Service Corp., said her company will work to make any transition from Hart seamless for area residents. ProMedica will provide "at least three" advanced life support ambulances to service Monroe County through the 90-day emergency contract period, with AMR bringing in an equal number for north of the River Raisin.

Ms. Roberts indicated that ProMedica's ambulances would transport patients "according to protocols" established by Monroe County authorities and would service all Toledo-area hospitals "based on patient need or choice."

Mr. Levine, a retired firefighter from Farmington Hills, Mich., originally was a silent partner in Hart when it won the contract to become Monroe County's primary ambulance provider in 2003. At the time, the three-year contract represented the first time the Detroit-based firm assumed primary responsibility for medical transports for any geographic area.

But Mr. Levine and Hart's founder, Adam Gottlieb, had a very public falling out shortly after Hart began operating in the county, and the company never recovered from the dispute, Mr. Levine said.

"It started out wrong from the beginning," Mr. Levine said, adding that he estimates he lost between $400,000 and $500,000 on the venture, which he said has compiled more than $1.7 million in debt.

"Everybody has been very supportive," Mr. Levine said, mentioning county officials and his own employees, who have had to wait weeks at a time in order to cash their paychecks. "It's too bad that I just couldn't make this thing go."

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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