St. Francis appears set to take over Dover’s ambulance contract


DOVER — It appears as if Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen and Dover City Council will get their wish of an increased level of service, and at a surprisingly low cost, when it comes to ambulance crews serving the city of Dover.

After receiving completed addendums to the Request for Proposal from four bidders, city staff recommended Wilmington-based St. Francis Healthcare to receive the new three-year Dover ambulance service contract that will begin April 1, 2019.

Members of Dover’s Council Committee of the Whole’s Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee unanimously voted to accept the staff’s recommendation of St. Francis Healthcare at Dover’s City Hall on Tuesday night.

Members of Dover City Council will make the final vote on the three-year ambulance contract at its next meeting on Jan. 14, 2019.

St. Francis came in with a low three-year bid of $300,000 — $100,000 for each year. Its bid covers two Basic Life Support ambulance units, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week with two Emergency Medical Technician’s on board each ambulance.

Mid Atlantic put in the second-lowest three-year bid at $474,000, followed by GEM Ambulance at $570,000 and current ambulance service provider Prime Care at $700,800.

“As you recall, we issued an addendum to the RFP that was dated November 16, 2018, when the addendum went out,” Dover City Manager Donna Mitchell said. “All four of the proposers responded to the addendum and the results for pricing alternative services A and B was included in the addendum.

“After reviewing the results of the addendum submissions, staff is now recommending St. Francis Healthcare with increased level of service as approved by city council on November 13, 2018.”

Fred Neil, a city councilman and a member of the Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee, couldn’t believe the numbers that St. Francis submitted, especially considering the added level of service.

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.

“The contract that we are currently using, this is actually below that contract?,” Mr. Neil asked Mrs. Mitchell at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Mrs. Mitchell responded, “Yes, it is actually below that contract. We are budgeted at about $245,000 right now and that is the cost of the current contract, so this is actually below that contract.”

It had appeared as if Cheswold-based GEM Ambulance would be awarded Dover’s ambulance contract when it came in with a bid of $472,875 for three years to the original RFP.

However, that was before Mayor Christiansen, who has more than 40 years of volunteer service with the Dover Fire Department, told city council members they should consider obtaining a higher level of service at a Sept. 10 council 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 at that meeting. “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 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.

St. Francis came in with the lowest bid by far.

“I just would commend Mrs. Mitchell for following through on looking into the facts and information that were available,” Mayor Christiansen said on Tuesday night. “As a once very wise council member once said many, many years ago to me, ‘It always pays to do your homework.’”

While the ambulance contract appears to be heading towards a satisfactory ending for the city, councilman Matt Lindell said the city didn’t look very good when it had to submit an addendum to the bidders following the original RFP.

“I think next time when the (ambulance services) contract comes up again we need to take a look at it as a council specifically to make sure before we follow through the process so we’re not back doing the same thing again,” Councilman Lindell said.

“I think the staff did its’ due diligence, but I think (city council) dropped the ball as far as communicating what we wanted and I think we need to look at that next time as the contract comes up.”

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