Joseph S. Pete
The Times, Munster, Ind.
Valparaiso-based inHealth recently landed the contracts to provide ambulance service at the Cleveland-Cliffs Burns Harbor steel mill in Porter County and the BP Whiting Refinery in Lake County.
CEO Ron Donahue and his wife founded the company five years ago after long working as paramedics. Donahue, who started working as an EMT in college, worked his way up to the vice president of another ambulance company and eventually opted to strike out on his own.
“We had been in the ambulance business for 17, 18 years, basically all our careers,” he said. “We decided to try something for ourselves and recruited partners we have had over the years.”
The company now has offices in LaPorte, Highland, Burns Harbor and Whiting.
“We’ve been blessed with great staff,” he said. “Word has spread about how well we treat the patients. The growth has been grassroots.”
The company was signed to a multiyear deal by Cleveland-Cliffs to take over ambulance service at the steel mill in Burns Harbor, and then was approached by BP about its refinery in Whiting, the largest in the Midwest and in BP’s portfolio worldwide. InHealth staffs ambulances at both industrial sites 24/7 as both are the size of small cities, with thousands of workers, and have inherent hazards that are unavoidable in working with steel that’s weighted by the ton, molten iron ore as hot as lava and highly flammable petrochemicals.
“We all live and work in this area and the steel mills employ so many people,” he said. “It’s excellent to be able to support the labor of thousands of people in the area. I’ve had family members who used to work at Bethlehem Steel that’s now Cleveland-Cliffs. Family members made their livelihood at that mill working midnight shifts while I was growing up. Now it’s the next generation. When I was a kid you couldn’t go back in there, so as just a personal thing it’s great to be able to go in and see the mill.”
The company has boosted its staff, including of dispatchers, billers and drivers, by about 35% over the past year to keep up with the growth. It also launched an EMT class in Valparaiso to prepare about 20 students per cohort to work in the industry.
“We kept the rate pretty low to get people in the door,” he said. “We had a lot of interest from students who were unemployed people in the Region. We ended up filling the cohort and even had a waiting list. The next class got pushed back to January as there’s a lot of people who want to get into the field.”
InHealth is looking to continue to add staff as it seeks to grow.
“We are rigorous in our hiring process but it has to be a good fit, especially ethically and morally,” he said. “The company is built on people. We don’t make a product like skateboards. It’s people caring for people so you have to hire the right people and get them in the right positions.”
For more information, visit indianahealth.care.
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