September 5, 2013

LFD wants funding for ambulance service

Chief concerned with Rural/Metro's wait times, bankruptcy protection.

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — Logansport officials are hoping ambulance service for the fire department will make up for what they say is a continuing trend of extensive wait times from the company providing the county's emergency transportation, which is currently restructuring after filing for bankruptcy last month.

The city's proposed budget for 2014 includes a $100,000 request from the fire department for an ambulance or two of its own.

"We're still having problems with delays on calls for a long time," Logansport Fire Chief Mark Strong said of Rural/Metro, the company currently contracted to provide Cass County's ambulance services. "A really long time sometimes."

On some occasions, Strong said people requiring emergency transportation have waited more than 30 minutes for an ambulance.

Strong also expressed concerns over Rural/Metro's filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month.

"We don't know what that means for us," he said.

Two days after filing for Chapter 11, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware approved Rural/Metro's motions granting the company interim approval "to use $40 million of its $75 million debtor-in possession financing to support its employees, customers, patients and communities and continue normal operations throughout the financial restructuring process," according to a press release.

The release goes on to state the company's bondholders will invest $135 million of new equity in the company.

While messages requesting comment from Rural/Metro were not returned, Cass County Commissioner Jim Sailors said his correspondence with the company has put him at ease over its restructuring.

"We don't have any reason to doubt them," he said. "They said the business ought to continue and we wouldn't even know the difference."

Bankruptcy aside, business continuing the way it has is what Logansport officials say has them seeking the city's own ambulance service in the first place.

"Their lack of service is putting our fire department in a bind for extended service," Logansport City Councilman Joe Buck said. "If [firefighters] are going to be there for a half hour, they might as well take [patients] to the hospital in 10 to 15 minutes."

Cass County is nearly 18 months into a five-year contract with Rural/Metro.

Because Cass officials have taken up the responsibility of providing the county with ambulance services, Logansport City Councilwoman Teresa Popejoy said she cannot support a measure that would tax Logansport citizens for the same thing.

"I certainly recognize the need for timely medical services," she said. "I fully understand that need, but at the same time, as a city council representative, I find it hard to approve that because of the fact that the county is responsible for providing those services. I don't think that behooves the best interest of the city to tax citizens of the city for services they're supposed to be receiving."

Strong said he did not yet know how the $100,000 for providing the fire department with ambulance services of its own would be spent.

"I don't know if we'll be buying a couple used ones or one used one," he said. "I'd just assume buy one used one to start with and go from there."

City council will hold its first of two votes on adopting the budget Oct. 7.

Rural/Metro's claims agent, Donlin, Recano & Company Inc., states on its website that it will be meeting with representatives of the ambulance service Sept. 12 to set future dates in the restructuring process.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or