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Published: Thursday, 4/21/2005

Dual ambulance plan gains praise

MONROE - Several unintended glitches aside, members of the Monroe County Emergency Medical Authority last night said the backup ambulance plan implemented earlier this month has been a success.

Meanwhile, the authority moved to start the process to choose a permanent provider.

Hart Medical EMS, which signed a three-year-contract with the authority in November, 2003, ceased operations April 1 because of financial problems.

In the company's place, ProMedica Transport, of Toledo, and American Medical Response, of Greenwood Village, Colo., were signed to 90-day contracts to handle the county's ambulance service. Both entities began service April 4, three days after Hart closed.

With the River Raisin as the boundary, ProMedica covers the south and AMR covers the northern part of the county. The city of Monroe has its own ambulance service.

Mike Demski, the authority's chairman, gave both companies high marks for stepping in on short notice.

"There have been a few minor problems, but the service continues to improve daily. I think they're doing an excellent job, given they were thrown into service at the last minute," he said.

Among the problems, the ambulance companies and the county have different radio systems, which has caused some run delays. The county recently moved to an 800mhz system, but AMR and ProMedica need approval from the state to use the same system, Mr. Demski said.

For now, the companies have supplied their paramedics with pagers and two-way radios to solve the problem.

Jack McRasch, of ProMedica, and Doug Gruenwald, of AMR, said they believe their operations will continue to improve in the coming weeks.

Another authority concern was alleviated when ProMedica hired 34 former Hart employees, while AMR hired four.

One reason the authority hired Hart in the first place was that the company promised to open a communications center in the county. However, ProMedica is running its command post out of Toledo Hospital, while AMR is running its operation from Pontiac, Mich.

Mr. Demski appointed authority members David Nadeau, Michael Helmstadter, and Jan Jay to a committee that will review the Hart agreement and develop possible guidelines for the request for criteria the board will use to select a permanent ambulance service provider.

The committee will report its findings to the authority's operations committee, which will develop a final proposal for board approval. Should the authority not choose a new provider by July 4 - when the 90-day emergency agreement expires, then AMR and ProMedica can be retained on a series of 30-day contracts.

"We're going to get it right rather than do it fast," Mr. Demski said.

He said it is unlikely the authority would retain two service providers on a permanent basis.

Hart's president, Richard Levine, told the authority last night he was sorry he was not able to continue working with the authority.

"It was a difficult decision for me to make," he said.

Authority member Patricia Kosanovich commended Mr. Levine for his effort.

"You're a good leader; your paramedics stood by you. It's too bad it happened. You deserved better," she said.

In other business, the authority approved hiring the law firm of Johnson, Rosati, Labarge, Aseltyne & Field, of Farmington Hills, Mich., to represent the board in a lawsuit filed by Mr. Jay.

In his lawsuit, Mr. Jay said the authority has been violating its by-laws by operating since Jan. 1 without holding an election with all nine authority members present.

"I just want them to fix it, to do it right," Mr. Jay said.

Other authority members declined to comment on the lawsuit.



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