Mercy EMS ‘disappointed’ not to be picked for ambulance contract in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 November 2023 at 8:13 am

Towns not choosing Mercy despite lower cost and higher level of service

Photo by Tom Rivers: A Mercy EMS ambulance is decorated with lights for Medina’s Parade of Lights

ALBION – Mercy EMS officials are puzzled they aren’t being considered for an ambulance contract in central and eastern Orleans County.

Barre and Albion have already voted for Monroe Ambulance for 2024. They are the first of the seven towns to approve a $300,000 total contract.

Mercy EMS is willing to provide ambulance coverage for $180,000. That’s with two advanced-life support ambulances dedicated to the county, 24-7. Monroe is committing to one ALS ambulance in Albion and a second basic life support ambulance that would be in Holley 12 hours a day, and then just outside the county in Brockport for 12 hours. Monroe also can draw on other ambulances as needed from Monroe County.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Scott Wooton, executive vice president for Mercy Flight. “We were excited and charged up to think we would be given a real shot at the contract.”

He has heard the towns are portraying Mercy as being slow to respond with a contract proposal, or submitting a higher cost than Monroe Ambulance. When the Albion Town Board voted 5-0 to approve Monroe on Monday, board members said they wanted at least a full year with Monroe to evaluate the call data and to better scrutinize Monroe’s performance.

Albion agreed to pay $155,820 to Monroe Ambulance in 2024, which is up from the $84,400 Albion paid the Rochester-based company in 2023. The towns are divvying up the shares of the $300,000 based on percentage of overall call volume.

Mercy was asked by the towns how much the contract would be if it also had a fly car with a paramedic as well as the two ambulances. That fly car would respond to EMS calls but can’t transport patients.

With a fly car and two ALS ambulances, Mercy submitted a proposal for $495,000 from the seven towns. If it’s one ALS ambulance, one BLS and a fly car, Wooton said the proposal is $405,000.

Taking away the fly car, Mercy has been consistent that the two ALS ambulances dedicated to Orleans would be $180,000. Wooton said he sent that proposal to the towns on Aug. 15, about three months ago.

One ambulance would be based out of the former COVA headquarters in Albion and the other likely in Holley at a location to be determined, Wooton said.

Mercy continues to operate the COVA base in Albion. It has kept most of the COVA employees on its payroll, responding to calls in Niagara and Genesee counties, Hamlin in Monroe, and some backup calls in the Albion area when Monroe is short-staffed or has its ambulances tied up.

Albion town officials said the block of seven towns is planning to do a formal request for proposals in mid-2024 for ambulance services in 2025 with the contract going to the lowest qualified bidder.

Wooton said Mercy would have liked that option for the 2024 contract, for a formal RFP with the providers brought in to detail their proposals in person. Mercy’s contract proposals were sent to the attorney for the Town of Barre who served as the point person for the seven towns. Wooton said none of the town officials called him directly.

“Their constituents could have better service at almost half the price,” Wooton said.

Mercy EMS took over the former COVA on Nov. 15, 2022. COVA sought some municipal support for years, but never was given any. The organization folded about a year ago.

Mercy then was the primary ambulance provider in central Orleans until Monroe was up and running on April 15, with an ambulance stationed at the Albion Town Hall.

Once Monroe took over in central Orleans, Mercy shifted those Albion-based employees primarily to Terry Corners in Gasport. Mercy had a contract to serve that area until Oct. 31, but is still assisting with ambulance services. Mercy also started a new contract on Nov. 1 to provide ambulance transports for the Catholic Health Service’s new hospital in Lockport.

The former COVA workers would prefer to be working in their home community. Mercy for now will keep the former COVA employees by responding to calls that are mostly outside of the Albion area.

“Mercy Flight was eager and excited to bring our people back to get back to do what they intended to do,” Wooton said. “We’re really disappointed.”