Dover seeking higher level of ambulance service

 

DOVER — The city of Dover is going back to the drawing board when it comes to finding an ambulance service provider that will meet all the needs of its citizens.

Dover City Manager Donna Mitchell is sending out revised Request for Proposals to the four vendors that were previously pursuing the city’s ambulance contract, including GEM Ambulance, Prime Care, Mid Atlantic and St. Francis EMS.

The original RFP requested level of service from the city to the vendors was a basic state standard of service that included one ambulance unit 24 hours a day, seven days per week and a second unit that would work from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m.

The ambulances would have been staffed with one Emergency Medical Technician and one Emergency Medical Responder who has taken the Emergency Vehicle Operator Course.

Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen, who has 40 years of volunteer service with the Dover Fire Department, balked at that proposed level of service at a Sept. 10 meeting of Dover City Council, saying he believes the city’s residents deserve a higher standard.

“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.”

Following that City Council meeting on Sept. 10, members of council referred the matter back to the Council Committee of the Whole’s Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee to send an addendum to the four ambulance service vendors and receive bids for the proposed higher service level.

Last Tuesday, the Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee agreed with Mayor Christiansen that the city should pursue revised bids for the higher level of services.

Mayor Christiansen was unable to attend last Tuesday’s meeting but sent a letter to committee members that outlined his suggestions.

“I, as a former EMT and current active firefighter for the Dover Fire Department, believe that I can offer some (insight) to what I see as staffing levels for our ambulance service contract to better serve our growing community with the highest level of EMS service,” Mayor Christiansen’s letter said. “I believe that the city and our citizens would be best served by two dedicated 24/7 BLS (Basic Life Support) units manned by two EMT-B nationally certified personnel.

“I further believe that an additional floating unit should be considered. The times for this unit would be to supplement the two dedicated units during peak hours of need based on call analysis and statistical information.”

Mayor Christiansen said the size of Dover requires a higher level of emergency services such as the one he proposed.

“It is my feeling that such an arrangement would adequately accommodate our population which fluctuates from 38,000 (night time) to an estimated 60,000-plus (daytime), which includes citizens, visitors, commuters and employees of our many offices and businesses,” he wrote. “Those units would provide needed coverage for our growing senior population as well as increasing incidents for opioid and other types of calls for help.”

Members of the Safety Advisory Committee agreed with the mayor’s proposal and requested that Mrs. Mitchell send out revised RFPs to get new bids from the companies.

“I am in agreement with recommending and incorporating the two dedicated 24/7 BLS units manned by two EMTs as recommended from the mayor,” City Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. said. “I would like to concur with that recommendation.”

City Councilman David Anderson said, “I agree with Councilman Sudler. If Cheswold has two EMTs (aboard its ambulances), it makes no sense that Dover doesn’t.”

The contract start date for the ambulance service will be April 1, 2019.

“This will give time for the proposal to go through the process,” Mrs. Mitchell said. “We’re looking to get this done for (an ambulance service company) to be able to start up by April 1.”

Prime Care will continue to be Dover’s ambulance service provider until that time.

In responding to the original RFP, Cheswold-based GEM Ambulance came in well below the 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.

City Councilman Tanner Polce asked Mrs. Mitchell if the revised ambulance contract might put the city over its ambulance services budget with the revisions to the RFP.

“I don’t know,” Mrs. Mitchell said. “I can’t say for certain because they’re going to have to run the numbers … and we gave them numbers on the first time for the number of calls. It could come out different, but I can’t tell you for certain.”

Some members of city council expressed their displeasure that revised RFPs had to be given to the four bidders.

“I’d just like to say that when this goes out I would like to emphasize that when you send it out for whoever replies that they reply with their bids on what we are requesting, not what they think we should have,” City Councilman William “Bill” Hare said. “This could have probably all been avoided if we got bids on what we requested.”

Councilman Matt Lindell said improved communication among council members and city staff s key to avoiding such situations again.

“I just want to voice my frustration with the fact that it seems like with our council body itself, we could’ve handled this months ago when the first RFP went out,” said Councilman Lindell. “I think we need to do a better job as a council in discussing our wishes when it comes to RFPs like this with our city staff, because as I said, this is six months.

“I personally agree with Mayor Christiansen’s recommendations, yet we could have done this six months ago when it first came out and we could already have an organization picked out and ready to roll with these constraints.”

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