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City moving toward EMS privatization

Council gives manager approval to negotiate contract with Medstar

September 26, 2012

EASTPOINTE — Eastpointe is looking further into the possibility of privatizing ambulance service in the city.

At the Sept. 18 regular meeting, the City Council unanimously approved an agenda item that authorizes the city manager to negotiate and enter a contract with Medstar, a private EMS service.

“(We’ve) received bids from several companies for EMS services,” said City Manager Steve Duchane. “Our main priorities are to maintain a quality of service for our citizens and maintain a focus on fiscal responsibility in the future.”

“Therefore, upon analysis of each bid, I recommended that Medstar Ambulance Service be contracted to be our EMS and transportation services within the city.”

Duchane cited multiple reasons for his recommendation, ranging from the low cost they proposed and their nonprofit status to their advanced technology and statistical data.

“Medstar offers MARVLIS response time which can indicate wait times an individual will experience in a medical emergency given prior response to calls,” Duchane explained, adding that they don’t just rate high in response time, but also customer satisfaction.

“More importantly — given the statistical data (from) customers — they score the highest in skills of the medics, overall facility rating, care shown by medics and help with billing concerns.”

Duchane estimated that by contracting with Medstar, the city stands to save anywhere from $750,000 to $850,000 annually, and it won’t cost the city anything — Medstar doesn’t charge the city fees or require a subsidy.

Although previously against contracting out EMS services, even Nick Sage, president of the Eastpointe Professional Fire Fighters Association, backed the possible deal.

In a statement to council, Sage explained that he and his fellow firefighters truly believe their current model is the best, but the financial constraints make it impossible to continue.

“Our current model, which we believe to be the best way to deliver emergency medical care to our residents, is no longer financially feasible and leaves our manpower resources spread too thin, too often, leaving the city and residents in a vulnerable position,” Sage told the council, adding that with periodic reviews of the effectiveness of a privatized EMS, the firefighters union accepted privatization through Medstar.

If an agreement is reached with Medstar, it will be re-evaluated in two years.

Medstar was one of three companies to respond to the city’s request for proposals. Universal Ambulance Service and Superior Ambulance service also responded. Both companies offered many perks, such as guaranteed wages, training and other services, but neither committed to being subsidy- or fee-free in their response.

A copy of the contract will be presented to council prior to endorsement.

It is unclear what effects the privatization will have on the fire authority currently being discussed with neighboring Roseville, but the proposal offered by Medstar states they “will meet the minimum requirements of the mutual aid agreements (with St. Clair Shores and Roseville) and exceed the present personnel assigned today.” 

But Duchane said the model Eastpointe is adopting would benefit the fire authority.

“It will be a better model for the authority to follow, and probably necessary, but can be altered, if forced to,” Duchane said.

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