Tempe ambulance contract now a no-bid process
By Dianna M. Náñez The Republic | azcentral.com Fri May 17, 2013 9:10 AM
Only one company is competing for Tempe’s lucrative contract for ambulance services to support the Fire Department.
The Tempe City Council chose to allow only Professional Medical Transport to compete for the contract because city officials believe that the state’s approval last year of Rural/Metro Corp.’s purchase of that company effectively ended competitiveness in the market.
The only state-approved ambulance providers that Tempe may contract with are Rural/Metro or its subsidiaries, PMT and Southwest Ambulance.
Before the state allowed Rural/Metro to purchase PMT, Southwest and PMT were owned by separate companies and would compete for Tempe’s contract.
“The new corporate alignment ... has eliminated the independence that once existed between Professional Medical Transport and Southwest Ambulance, thereby creating a sole-source environment,” stated a staff report for the council to review last month.
On April 18, the Tempe City Council approved a seven-week “sole-source” contract renewal with PMT for emergency medical services.
Tempe Fire Chief Greg Ruiz said he expects to bring a contract recommendation to the council in mid-June.
However, Ruiz said that if Tempe and PMT cannot negotiate a contract that is in the best interest of residents, [residents???, no you mean the members of the city council who get bribes, oops, I mean campaign contributions from the ambulance companies] then the council has the option after the seven-week period to open the contract to bids.
Tempe may negotiate only with state-approved ambulance providers that hold a certificate of necessities to provide service in the city. Terry Mullins, bureau chief for the Arizona Department of Health Services, said the three certificate holders in Tempe are Rural/Metro, PMT and Southwest.
No-bid contracts historically have drawn scrutiny because there are concerns about nepotism and whether residents will get the best services if no other company is allowed to enter the market to bid for a government contract.
Historically, Tempe has negotiated its contract for emergency medical transportation services through a competitive bid process.
In about 2008, PMT won the Tempe contract over Southwest, which had held the contract.
Ruiz said he believes that it made sense to allow only PMT to negotiate for the contract because there would be little benefit to creating an open-bid process if Rural/Metro would ultimately have final approval of the final contract details.
“Because Rural/Metro now owns Southwest Ambulance and PMT ... it’s really Rural/Metro we’re going through,” Ruiz said.
While there is no cost to the city for the contract, because PMT collects payment for services directly from customers, municipal contracts for ambulance services are highly sought after because they are lucrative.
Ruiz said PMT has provided quality services.
The Tempe Fire Department rated PMT’s performance and gave the company A ratings for exceeding standards in all but one area, timeliness of performance, for which it received a B rating for meeting standards.
Among the innovative services the Fire Department and PMT have implemented is housing PMT ambulances in Tempe fire stations. PMT paramedics working side-by-side with Tempe firefighters has resulted in a stronger relationship, vital when responding to medical emergencies, Ruiz said.
PMT paramedics are working out of two Tempe fire stations but the city hopes to expand the program, he said. PMT makes a lease payment to the city for the shared space.
The current PMT contract also provides funding to Tempe to hire civilian paramedics that work for the city but are not part of the public-safety retirement system, Ruiz said.
The public-private partnership allows PMT to reimburse the city for the civilian paramedics’ salary.
Michelle Angle, a PMT spokeswoman, said that PMT has a strong partnership with Tempe. Angle spotlighted PMT’s response times, management of traumatic brain injuries and the company’s paramedics training alongside Tempe firefighters in shared fire stations.
“It’s a streamlined system. Our folks are making their (firefighters’) jobs easier,” Angle said. “I think you would be hard-pressed to find a provider that would be able to provide better than we have.”
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