Delaware State News

Dover council sends ambulance services contract back for discussion

DOVER — Dover City Council President Tim Slavin, discussing a new ambulance services contract for the city of Dover, recommended that the issue take a step back before it can move forward.

Mr. Slavin’s motion to move the ambulance services contract issue back to the city’s Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee for further discussion was moved by City Councilman David Anderson and seconded by Councilman Brian Lewis the Dover City Council meeting on Monday night at City Hall.

The main sticking point for the ambulance contract is the desire to get revised bids from the four vendors pursuing the city’s Request for Proposal (RFP) — including GEM Ambulance, Prime Care, Mid Atlantic and St. Francis EMS — regarding ambulances that are staffed with one EMT and those that have two EMT’s on board.

“I found that the RFP process was sound and fair and I think the responses we received were all adequate to the task,” Council President Tim Slavin said. “I think that our decision needs to be sound and fair and I’m having difficulty looking at the responses when some (proposals) have one EMT per crew and some have two EMTs per crew.

“I was going to propose that we refer the issue back to the Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee with instructions to staff to go back to the respondents and have them revise their proposals (for both) a one-EMT crew and a two-EMT crew.”

Mr. Slavin added, “That way we can compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges.”

Tim Slavin

While Cheswold-based GEM Ambulance came in well below three other bidders for the ambulance contract with a bid of $472,875 for three years — including a $700,800 three-year bid that was made by current city ambulance provider Prime Care — Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen questioned some language in the RFP that was sent out to interested companies at the Aug. 28 Council of the Whole meeting.

“I’m always worried about the training levels of the people who are going to be performing and EMS-ing in the city of Dover,” Mayor Christiansen said. “I would hope that the highest level that they can attain is going to be attained.

“In the contract, was there a requirement there for two EMTs to be on board these rigs? I’d feel more comfortable if there were two EMTs on board.”

An ambulance services contract committee, which included professionals in the medical field, had recommended GEM Ambulance for the job over Prime Care and two other bidders.

The company said it is prepared to have one ambulance on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and another available 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

Gem Ambulance will have to secure a location in Dover and “is willing to find a location that is agreeable to the city.”

While Prime Care — which was the second choice of the committee — did receive a total score of 841 in the RFP process, the best among the proposals, Gem Ambulance wasn’t far behind – at 806.

However, Gem Ambulance’s bid was much lower and City Manager Donna Mitchell said the company’s references spoke highly of the organization and the services that it offered.

Now, a new RFP will be issued to all four ambulance providers, including Mid Atlantic and St. Francis EMS, asking for bids that include ambulances staffed by one EMT and two EMTs.

“For the ambulance contract the committee had recommended GEM Ambulance,” Mrs. Mitchell said. “There were some concerns about missed calls. I do want to address that and I understand it’s a concern for all of us. It was a concern for the committee as well. Mrs. Mitchell said the ambulance services contract will be treated differently by the city than it has been in the past.

“What we’ve asked for in this new RFP was additional reporting requirements, so we can (get) into that information,” she said. “I will also say that in the past the city has taken a passive approach to managing this contract and the approach that was put out in the RFP is an active process to manage this contract.

“So, there will be regularly scheduled meetings with the committee that’s set up to review performance and analyze the data to make sure that we are getting good, quality service. The whole approach this time around was done differently than in the past. We are trying to address those issues.”

City Councilman William “Bill” Hare suggested two EMTs be on board the ambulances and have two ambulances available 24 hours a day.

Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. voted against moving the ambulance matter to Monday night’s city council meeting on Aug. 28, saying he would prefer to defer the matter to the next Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee meeting for further study. He finally got his wish Monday night.

“My major concern was I just wanted to know the monetary variation between two- and one-(man ambulance crews) just to get a cost analysis,” Mr. Sudler said. “That was my main concern.”

Councilman David Anderson said he has done some research since the Aug. 28 Council Committee of the Whole meeting regarding ambulance services in Delaware.

“I think it’s very important that we look at this because I found some things over the last couple of weeks that I didn’t know at the time of our vote,” Mr. Anderson said. “That includes the fact that several of the ambulance services in Delaware exceed the state mandate and have two EMTs. So, we’re actually behind the curve in quality compared to Newark and some of the others.

“I think that if we have the opportunity to afford to do that (two EMTs on an ambulance), below the cost of our current vendor, that we should really not take a pass on that because it can benefit the lives of our citizens.”