AMR will pull out at noon Tuesday

Published 5:35 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2008

American Medical Response ambulance service will stop providing service to Pearl River County at noon on Tuesday, according to AMR Jackson Public Relations spokesperson Jim Pollard.

AMR has been providing temporary ambulance service to Pearl River County since Emergystat ambulance service pulled out of its contract with the county in January due to the loss of its liability insurance.

Pollard said in a phone interview on Monday that AMR provided Pearl River County officials with a letter on Friday, informing them of the company’s intent to withdraw from providing service to the county unless a deal could be negotiated for a temporary contract for service.

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“We gave them with approximately four and a half days lead time to make the transfer over to a new provider. We provided what we hoped would be sufficient time to allow the new contractor to take the reins,” Pollard said.

Ricky Fayard, AMR Public Relations spokesperson out of Biloxi, said Monday the original agreement with Pearl River County was to provide services for two weeks while the board tried to choose a permanent provider.

“We extended that original agreement until the board could make its decision. Once we had the decision on Friday, we sent our exit plan to the county,” Fayard said.

Wade Spruill, Chief Executive Officer for AAA Ambulance, said in a phone interview Monday that AAA will be able to service the county once AMR pulls out on Tuesday.

“We called AMR on Friday to discuss a transition plan, and were told at that time they would be leaving on Tuesday,” Spruill said.

Spruill said the full complement of five ambulances promised to the county will not be available on Tuesday, but AAA will be providing a paramedic sprint car and three or four ambulances until other arrangements can be made.

“AAA’s fleet is huge, with access to Rescue 7, and plenty of adequate backup. We will be starting out in the county with three, possibly four ambulances, so we will be ready to go when needed,” Spruill said.

Spruill compared AMR’s decision to pull out of the county with Emergystat’s removal earlier this year.

“Unfortunately AMR has made its decision and we liken that decision to the situation with Emergystat. We tried to appeal to them in the public interest to wait until we could work out a transition period, but they went ahead and pulled out… Our original proposal to the county said we would be able to move into the county 30 days after the contract was signed with a paramedic sprint car and five ambulances. However, with AMR’s decision to pull out, we should be there at noon on Tuesday,” Spruill said.

Emergency Management Director Danny Manley said that AMR had offered to stay if the county could arrange for a subsidy for the remaining time needed. However, with AAA willing to go ahead and come into the county, that arrangement will not be needed.

District I Supervisor Anthony Hales said he is grateful to AMR for stepping in, but that the county had not promised AMR a contract just because of the temporary service they were providing.

“The county appreciates what AMR has done. They came in and were working without a contract, and were not receiving any money from the county for that. But we made it plain that our awarding them temporary service in no way guaranteed a permanent contract for service to the county,” Hales said.

District IV Supervisor Patrick Lee said he understood AMR’s decision to go ahead and withdraw from the county.

“It has cost AMR lots of money to be here temporarily. They don’t want this dragged out, and I understand that. But AAA is stepping up to the plate, and the county won’t be without service,” Lee said in a phone interview Monday.

County attorney Joe Montgomery said he is in the process of drafting a contract for the service, but may not be able to have the contract ready by the time AAA takes over tomorrow.

“I’m working with the AAA attorney in order to get the contract together, but they can operate in the county without it until we get it sorted out and signed… I’m also working on an inter-local agreement for the county and the cities of Picayune and Poplarville. The county is ready to sign the contract now, just as soon as we get the paperwork ready,” Montgomery said.

The reason the contract was not drawn up before the board meeting on Friday, Montgomery said, was because he needed to be certain of which provider the county was going to choose.

“We needed to wait until a decision was made because the proposals were so different. Once the decision was made, we were able to start drafting a contract,” Montgomery said.