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Acadian Ambulance Will Remain La. City's Sole Provider

NEW ORLEANS -- Acadian Ambulance will remain the city's sole ambulance service provider for as long as one year while the Slidell City Council considers whether to adopt specifications that, for instance, could require such providers to answer calls for service in a more timely manner.

The council voted 7-1 on Tuesday to establish a moratorium on new permits to emergency and nonemergency ambulance providers, two months after Acadian became the city's only ambulance service. Councilwoman Kim Harbison opposed the measure, and Councilman Rickey Hursey was absent.

Lifeguard Transportation, which sold its Louisiana operation to Acadian in December, used to split emergency ambulance duties with Acadian in Slidell before the sale, and residents could call either service for nonemergency services.

The city is interested in reviewing the specifications for ambulance service that St. Tammany Parish officials have created, with an eye toward adopting -- in part or whole -- those specifications, according to the ordinance. Or the city could develop its own specifications with the intent to seek bids for such services.

Councilman Lionel Hicks said he has been tasked with reviewing the parish's contract for ambulance service and will report back to the council with his findings. He added that he will be analyzing Acadian's performance standards and response times, and if they are not up to par, he will be the first to let the council know.

Councilman Ray Canada said earlier Tuesday that the parish requires Acadian to answer calls within 10 minutes in the unincorporated areas it serves, and he thinks that same standard should be applied in Slidell. He noted a recent situation, in which a person who lived just blocks from a hospital called for an ambulance, and it took 30 minutes to arrive.

The council wants to limit the ambulance companies to one for now, until it decides what to do with regard to developing the new specifications, Canada said. That work is expected to take one year, he said.

Canada also said that representatives from both Acadian and Lifeguard had complained in separate meetings that not enough business existed in the city to support more than one service provider. Apparently, the companies make most of their money through nonemergency calls, he said.

Councilman Warren Crockett said he had a problem with single-sourcing the city's ambulance service, but Canada noted that a provider from Houston had contacted the city about offering nonemergency services only and suggested the city add a $2 fee onto its water bills to subsidize emergency services. Canada said he wouldn't approve adding such a fee to the water bills.

The council had passed an ordinance in September that included a stipulation that only two ambulance companies could operate in Slidell at any time.

The ordinance also required that any ambulance providers be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services. Acadian held such accreditation at the time the council passed the ordinance, while Lifeguard did not -- though the ordinance gave companies not already accredited two years to achieve the certification.

Christine Harvey can be reached at charvey@timespicayune.com or (985) 645-2853.

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