April 20, 2005
Rural/Metro Corp. was fined $1 million and lost its ambulance contract with Fort Worth and 13 other Texas cities this week in a shake-up felt in Scottsdale, where officials are seeking a new 911 ambulance service.
A Rural/Metro subsidiary and another company are expected to bid later this year to provide firstresponse ambulance service in Scottsdale.
Currently, Rural/Metro provides firefighting service and its subsidiary Southwest Ambulance provides ambulance service on a contract basis in Scottsdale.
Starting in July, Scottsdale will launch its own municipal fire department to replace Rural/Metro, a private company that began operating in the city more than 50 years ago.
Mesa-based Southwest and Tem- pe-based Professional Medical Transport are seeking the business.
Scottsdale Fire Chief William McDonald said it is too soon to say what impact — if any — Rural/Metro’s record in Fort Worth would have in Scottsdale.
The selection process will include an investigation of each bidder’s qualifications and wherewithal to operate alongside the city fire department, he said.
Patrick Cantelme, CEO of Professional Medical Transport, said he expects Scottsdale officials will want a thorough understanding of the Texas matter before awarding a contract.
"What they’ll need to do is find out what’s behind it. The specifics to what’s going on in Fort Worth, I wouldn’t have any background on, but I imagine it will cause people to sit up and take notice," Cantelme said.
The board for the Area Metropolitan Ambulance Authority in Texas voted unanimously Monday to end a $12 million contract with Rural/Metro, which has been cited repeatedly for contract violations in the past year, according to The Associated Press.
The ambulance authority, which also is known as Med-Star, will take over ambulance operations after April 30.
Rural/Metro’s Fort Worth and Scottsdale operations are unrelated, said company spokeswoman Liz Merritt. The response protocols also are different.
The Texas system required paramedics to respond to every call. "It’s an allparamedic system, meaning regardless of the severity of the call, a fully staffed, paramedic, critical-care, (advanced life saving) unit responds for a scrape on the knee or a gunshot to the head — it doesn’t matter," Merritt said.
The Scottsdale system allows for different levels of trained personnel to respond, depending on the condition of the patients.
Rural/Metro faced "tremendous pressure" to recruit and maintain a full staff of paramedics at the same time the Texas cities expanded in population and geography, Merritt said. The call volume increased by 21 percent in the past year.
Rural/Metro sought changes to its contract, but when MedStar officials refused, the company asked to be released from the pact, she said.
Under the contract, Rural/ Metro was required to meet specific response times at least 90 percent of the time. The company had largely operated within the terms of the contract until it started having problems meeting response times in summer 2004.
Cantelme said, "I don’t know what impact it will have in Arizona. I know that size of the fine, absent something like Medicare fraud, is really unprecedented. I don’t know of any fine anywhere near that."