LUMBERTON — MED1 took over as Robeson County’s convalescent ambulance services provider at midnight Monday, handling 36 calls by late afternoon, according to it general manager.
MED1, which provides both emergency and non-emergency ambulance services in Hoke County, replaces American Medical Response, a large national company that has held an exclusive contract with the county for 13 years.
According to General Manager Tom Bryant, the two-year contract MED1 has with the county includes that his company pay an annual franchise fee of $84,000. AMR was paying an annual franchise fee of about $10,000 to provide similar services.
MED1 is operating out of a building at 2508 Elizabethtown Road which until recently housed Big Wayne’s Towing and Automotive.
“Residents can expect the same great service that AMR provided,” Bryant said. “It was not AMR that provided the service. It was its people.”
Bryant said that most of the 42 employees now working in Robeson County for MED1 worked previously with AMR.
“We have the same people in the same jobs,” Bryant said.
Brad Adams, an EMT who worked with AMR, said not much has changed.
“We now have a different logo and uniforms, but we still provide the same quality patient care,” he said.
Bryant said Tuesday afternoon that “things are going well.”
“In fact we anticipated some problems that have not occurred,” he said. “Getting all of this together in just 30 days is in itself a monumental task. Usually when there is a turnover (between companies), it takes 60 to 90 days.”
MED1 bases 10 ambulances in Robeson County, with up to eight on the road at any one time, Bryant said. Rather than just be on call, crews will be available to respond from the station seven days a week, 24 hour a day,he added.
Last month the county commissioners voted 7 to 1 to hire MED1, a subsidiary of a Georgia-based company, as the county’s provider of non-emergency services. Concerns and questions about the company’s financial state surfaced after MED1 approached the Hoke County Board of Commissioners and requested additional funding to support its operations.
Bryant last month told The Robesonian that the request for additional funding was not to pay unpaid bills, but to recoup about $800,000 that the company has lost from emergency transports where the company has not been paid for its services. In Hoke County, Bryant said, MED1 is responsible for all emergency transports, whether the individual being transported can pay or not.
According to Bryant, during the next couple of days those wishing to contact MED1 should call 910-827-2193. After Friday, when land lines are installed, MED1’s phone number will be 910-739-5556.
Brad Chase, general manger for AMR’s North Carolina operations, said Tuesday that it is “a little depressing” to see Robeson County turn down AMR’s proposal to continue providing the non-emergency ambulance services.
“We’ve been here so long,” he said.
Chase said that it is hard for him to rationalize why the county commissioners would hire a company with less experience than AMR to provide the services his company has successfully provided the county for more than a decade.
“It was political,” he said. “We can’t overcome politics with good services because that’s not what was being evaluated,” he said.
Chase has said his company was willing to meet or exceed any franchise fee paid by MED1.
AMR has sued two former employees, alleging they colluded with MED1 while still working for AMR.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.