News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 4, 2013

Trans-Care gets contract on $0 bid

New county ambulance contract includes provisions for paramedics

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A new county contract for 24-hour emergency medical ambulance service contains written provisions for immediately assigning ambulances with paramedics when requested.

That was a main concern of emergency responders for Sugar Creek, Honey Creek and Riley fire departments who addressed the Vigo County Board of Commissioners in December.

Darrick Scott, chief of the Sugar Creek Fire Department, in December said the agencies were asking “for a checks and balance. When we ask for a paramedic service, we need a paramedic service. I don’t care who it is.”

CARE Ambulance of Indianapolis submitted a proposal without a charge to the county for the first two years, then sought three one-year contracts. Trans-Care, which has had a county contract for the past 12 years, submitted a five-year proposal for $60,000 a year, the same rate it has charged the past dozen years.

That rate, however, was negotiated down to zero, making Trans-Care and CARE at the same rate, said Vigo County Commissioner Judith Anderson.

The Board of Commissioners unanimously voted Friday to award the contract to Trans-Care.

“We negotiated that down. We told Trans-Care that in order to be on a level playing field, we had to look at it economically for the county,” Anderson said Wednesday. “Zero versus $60,000 in this [economic] time was a big factor.

“With this contract, there is a lot of responsibility to the public. Both are outstanding companies, but Trans-Care, anytime there has been an issue, they have dealt with it and they are a local company,” Anderson said.

The new contract is for an initial two-year term, from Jan. 1, 2013, until Dec. 31, 2015. After that, the contract automatically renews for three successive one-year periods unless the county terminates the contract.

Trans-Care can bill the individual requesting service or insurance provider “its usual and customary fees for service provided,” according to the county contract. Vigo County is to provide Trans-Care with 911 map updates and software updates and upgrades.

County attorney Michael Wright said the county does have protections in the contract that if “Trans-Care consistently fails to provide adequate coverage without justification,” the county can cancel the contract with a 30-day notice.

Wright said the contract includes language that Trans-Care provide Advanced Life Support (ALS) on dispatched calls seeking a paramedic. The county is to use a dispatch determinate code of Echo, Delta, Charlie for ALS and Alpha, Bravo, Omega for Basic Life Support (BLS) service, according to the contract.

“If it is an Advanced Life Support call and Trans-Care does not have an ALS unit ready to roll at that time, they need to transfer the call back to 911,” Wright said. That would allow the county to immediately dispatch a CARE ambulance with a paramedic to a scene.

The contract does provide for shuttling patients from a BLS ambulance to an ALS ambulance if a BLS unit is closer.

“If there is an accident in Sugar Creek and the Trans-Care ALS unit is in Honey Creek, but there is a Basic Life Support unit at First and Cherry, they can dispatch that unit,” Wright said. “They can get that unit there quicker and … then intercept with ALS to make it faster. Everybody understands that there is an Advance Life Support call, but we should not say that a BLS unit can’t respond and possibly get it to an ALS unit quicker instead of waiting … for an ALS unit,” Wright said.

“Trans-Care and the county, and CARE Ambulance for that matter, are going to work together to try to make it better and try to get people cared for faster,” Wright said.

The county awards a contract as a requirement of state law, which declares that emergency medical service is an essential purpose of county and city government. The law seeks to promote the establishment and maintenance of an effective system of emergency medical service, including the necessary equipment, personnel, and facilities to ensure that all emergency patients receive prompt and adequate medical care.

Dr. Dorene Hojnicki, who serves as an unpaid medical director for Sugar Creek, Honey Creek, Riley and three other county fire departments, also addressed commissioners in December on the need for immediate paramedic response.

On Wednesday, Hojnicki said “all parties should understand what the concerns are and we are hoping to get the best service for the residents of Vigo County. We will see as time goes by where we are at and how things go.”

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or