E.C. looks at private ambulance performance

2012-07-07T20:12:00Z 2012-07-07T22:11:40Z E.C. looks at private ambulance performanceBy Steve Zabroski Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
July 07, 2012 8:12 pm  • 

EAST CHICAGO | The City Council has launched a series of public meetings to examine the performance of a private firm recently contracted for emergency medical transportation.

Highland-based Prompt Ambulance Services replaced city paramedics on May 5 after the local department was dissolved in a budget reduction move.

"Overall, things have gone fairly well," Joseph Merry Jr., director of operations and communications for Prompt, told the council's public safety committee recently.

Council committee members questioned the length of time Prompt ambulances have taken to respond to medical dispatch calls, as well as the company's procedure for handling multiple, overlapping emergencies.

The company's five-year contract calls for Prompt to maintain two ambulances in East Chicago at all times, and to respond to calls no more than 10 percent longer than the time previously clocked by city teams, which was roughly four minutes.

Councilman Juda Parks, D-at large, produced police incident logs last week suggesting a number of delayed response times, some as long as 13 minutes.

"There were very few issues," Merry said. "In some cases, during that first month, it was a matter of getting our bearings in the city."

June performance numbers were not yet available, Merry said. Prompt's contract calls for monthly reports to the city by the 10th day of the next month.

When an emergency call is made and both of Prompt's ambulances are already busy, Merry said employees would be directed to contact the city of Whiting for mutual aid assistance, rather than wait for another Prompt ambulance.

The company charges patients for emergency medical transportation, and can't bill for services provided by another municipality's medics.

East Chicago has yet to form an advisory board to oversee the privatized medical services, as provided in the contract with Prompt, and emergency transportation issues are currently heard by the city's Board of Public Safety.

Merry said that the company will in the future also provide performance reports to the council's public safety committee.

A second public meeting of the council committee to discuss emergency medical transportation issues in the city is scheduled for noon Tuesday in City Hall.

Prompt suspended Merry's medic privileges in June over allegations that he performed medical procedures for which he was not qualified during a May 28 ambulance call in Indiana Harbor.

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