Athens Review, Athens, Texas

May 8, 2013

ETMC official speaks

General manager concerned about competing transporter

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — An East Texas Medical Center official told the Athens City Council on Wednesday that he is concerned that a non-emergency ambulance service may soon be doing business in the city.

A final reading granting Impel Ambulance Service a franchise to operate in the city is expected to be on the city council agenda at its first regular May meeting at 5:30 p.m., Monday.

Neil Franklin, the General Manager for ETMC EMS, said he became concerned after learning of Impel’s plans.  When entering a contract to provide ambulance service, Franklin said ETMC EMS has to balance the cost of emergency calls with the revenue it makes from non-emergency calls to nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

“We serve 9-1-1,” Franklin said. “We also pick people up who call us, and ask us to pick them up and take them to the hospital, of their choice, whether they can pay or not.”

If a competing company takes a large percentage of the paid calls, ETMC EMS may have to come before the city, and ask for a subsidy to make up the loss, Franklin said.

“Most of the time the non-emergency calls are scheduled, and almost always paid,” Franklin said. “We count on those calls to balance the ones we don’t receive any pay on.”

Franklin said EMS has developed a good working relationship through the years with fire departments and first responders. ETMC offers ambulance service throughout the 17 counties in its region, with more than 100 vehicles in the EMS fleet.

“We love this community, and we want to continue in this community the way we are,” Franklin said.

On April 8, Impel officials Alicia Watkins and Sanford E. Watkins, M.D. asked the city council for permission to transfer patients to and from doctor’s offices, dialysis centers, rehab facilities and other destinations along with the hospital.

Sanford Watkins said the company can provide an effective and safe alternative to the existing EMS service, and cut down on some of the wait time patients have experienced in getting to the hospital and other medical facilities.

Impel also submitted a fee schedule that includes a flat rate and an additional price per-mile. The proposed pickup charge for a non-emergency patient in the city is $206.93, plus $7.09 per-mile.