A St. Elmo-based ambulance company is one step closer to being Effingham County’s newest 911 ambulance provider, following a recommendation from the Effingham County Ambulance Oversight Committee.
Rural Med EMS was chosen Wednesday as the recommended ambulance company in a 5-2 vote by the committee. The company beat out Abbott EMS, the current provider, and Lakeside EMS, which also provided a bid for the contract despite suing the county three years ago in federal court over accusations that they didn’t provide the company a fair chance to operate as a transfer service. Judge Stanley Brandmeyer ruled Wednesday in favor of the county in that dispute.
The recommendation now moves to the full Effingham County Board, which is scheduled to vote on it Nov. 15. While still cautioning that nothing is final, Rural Med’s CEO Ethan Bouser said he hopes the board goes along with the committee, stating that Effingham County was another place for the company to grow.
“It’s right next to Fayette County, so it gives us a nice section of the I-70 corridor,” Bouser said. “We cover Bond County, Fayette County and hopefully Effingham County, so we’re able to back ourselves up very nicely along that corridor.”
County Board Chairman Jim Niemann said Abbott did nothing wrong and had no complaint that would cause any backlash toward the company. Rather, it was a matter of opportunity for the oversight committee and the board to open bids to other companies for the contract.
“This is the first time we’ve ever been able to go out for a contract, as far as anyone can remember,” Niemann said. “I think we’ve been very pleased with (Abbott’s) service. We haven’t had any complaints on their quality of service that I’m aware of. They came in at the end of the Terry White ambulance lawsuit (in 2017) and they ended up buying the contract. Nobody liked that particular contract, so we renegotiated a new one with them.”
Abbott EMS stated publicly at the meeting they were in full compliance with the county’s contract, providing monthly reports on time and dealing with any staffing issues that came up due to increased demand brought on by COVID-19.
“We’ve been available 99% of the time and, if we use the new standards in the contract, (have) an on-time performance of 95.7%, which is above many contracts’ 90% compliance standard,” said Joe Grygiel, vice president of Global Medical Response, owners of Abbott EMS.
The recommendation comes in light of the decision by Brandmeyer to favor the county in the dispute with Lakeside, which began operating in 2020 following a decision to remove the need for authorization for services other than the one contracted by the county.
Niemann was pleased with the decision.
“I had every confidence that we were going to succeed as we moved through this,” Niemann said.
Bouser said Effingham County is near and dear to his heart, having spent time as a child in Effingham and is excited for the possibility to serve the county.
“From the age of 16 on, I spent all my time in Effingham,” Bouser said. “I had jobs in Effingham, I dated girls in Effingham (and) it is my hometown, in effect. I am super happy at the potential to provide service up there. It’s something that we wanted to do for a long time and if we get the opportunity, I look forward to pulling it off quite nicely.”
If approved by the full board, Rural Med would begin services May 1, 2022.
Zach Roth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (217) 347-7151 ext. 132 or (217) 899-4338.
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