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Ambulance service fights to keep jobs
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ProMed Ambulance Service will be rolling out of town if an amicable financial solution with county officials cannot be reached, says ProMed general manager Michael Henderlight.
“It’s more than just a $500 application fee,” said Henderlight. “If that was it, ProMed would pay that and we would stay. I think many people were misinformed. There’s more to the story.”
ProMed is a privately run ambulance service based in Warren County and located on Smithville Highway. The business permit for ProMed to base in Warren County was recently suspended by the county after Safety Committee members gave the business a deadline to pay the $500 application fee, which it did not.
“I did find some of the comments that were made by county officials a little disheartening,” said Henderlight. “We aren’t being mean or bad by not paying the application fee. We just can’t stay when we aren’t making money.”
On top of the $500 fee, the business must pay a licensing fee of $4,500 to continue doing business in Warren County.
“Once we pay $500, there’s an additional $4,500 that has to be paid,” said Henderlight. “That’s what the county charges for a license. Once again, if it was just the $500, we would pay it and stay.”
ProMed is in business competition with the county over non-emergency medical transports from River Park to other medical facilities, such as those in Nashville and Chattanooga. It’s a competition it cannot win, says Henderlight.
“We used to provide about 90 percent of those calls,” said Henderlight. “When the county began offering the service about two years ago, our calls went from about 250 each month to between 60 and 88. We can’t keep the doors open when our income has been cut by more than half. Since then, we have been struggling financially.”
If ProMed should leave, it would mean the loss of four to six full- and part-time jobs for local residents. The business will be taking with it the purchase of $2,000 to $2,500 in fuel each month and paying local taxes.
Despite calls to hospital officials, as well as county officials, the majority of medical transport calls still go to the county. Henderlight says ProMed wants to stay in Warren County.
“I’ve made calls to the hospital and they had no complaints about our business,” said Henderlight. “I guess the hospital feels obligated to call the county instead of us. We get an occasional call when the county can’t respond. We can’t survive on that.”
“We want to stay here,” Henderlight continued. “We paid $5,000 and $250 per truck to be here. That had nothing to do with the county. It went to the state when we opened the business here. It does show our desire to be here.”
Henderlight says some officials have voiced their desire for the business to stay so he’s still hopeful for a solution.
“I have had some officials call me and voice a desire for us to stay so the county will have a backup plan for these runs. I’m still hopeful Brian (Jennings, EMS director) or John (Pelham, county executive) will call and we can work out a solution. If we could reduce the fee and work out an agreement with the runs, we could stay. It’s not advantageous for us to pay $5,000 and the majority of the runs go to the county.”
If ProMed should relocate, it would offer its employees a chance to relocate to one of its other businesses in Lebanon or Nashville, Henderlight says.
“We have made the offer to relocate them to other facilities in Lebanon or Nashville, but none of them have taken the offer,” he said.