Competition abounds in Northampton

Published 1:32 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2009

JACKSON — In the spirit of competition, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners have granted Atlas Medical Transport a franchise to operate within the county.

On Monday, the commissioners approved the measure after hearing from Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Director Charles Joyner and Atlas Medical Transport Owner Terry Campbell.

Joyner brought the decision before the board with the recommendation not to approve franchising another non-emergency provider in Northampton.

The county currently has two out of county providers (Eastern Medical Transport and Roanoke Valley Rescue Squad) that provide non-emergency transport. All of the county’s volunteer rescue squads also have franchises for non-emergency and emergency transportation.

Joyner said in accordance with the county’s Ambulance Franchises Ordinance, the proposal was brought before the Northampton County Rescue Association last month. All franchised providers were present with the exception of Woodland EMS.

The association came to the consensus that all non-emergency transports were being handled in a timely manner and additional providers could not be justified.

The association provided the commissioners with a letter recommending the board not approve the franchising of Atlas Medical Transport.

“The association feels that further franchises would be counterproductive as the competition would hurt county emergency medical services with no realized gain to the county or the citizens. Some county organizations are using non-emergency transports to fund the more expense (sic) and non-profitable 911 services that they provide. To have another company cut into the available customer base could hurt these organizations in both emergency and non-emergency transport,” said the letter signed by Kevin Kupietz, president of the association.

The letter also states that because of tightening of federal regulations on the patients that can be transported by ambulance the customer pool is shrinking and there are currently more trucks and personnel available in the county to run non-emergency transports than there are eligible clients.

“After conducting a telephone survey of local nursing facilities, I am not aware of any delays or inadequacies related to non-emergency transports in Northampton County at this time,” said Joyner.

Campbell, who lives in Halifax County, then had his turn before the board.

The owner and operator of Atlas Medical Transport, based out of Pitt County, Campbell said he worked both Halifax and Northampton counties as a North Carolina State Highway Patrol Trooper for 23 years and is familiar with the territory. His company has been in business since 2005 and is currently franchised in Pitt County and he has applied to be franchised in Halifax County, but has yet to hear a reply.

“I just want a chance to compete with the companies up here,” he said.

Campbell said he would like to begin with two trucks in the county and they would serve to transport patients from nursing homes as well as individuals on non-emergency calls to doctors appointments and medical procedures (kidney dialysis, x-rays etc.). He said his trucks would also be available during disasters such as hurricanes. He added his company is properly insured as required by state and local counties.

Commissioner Chester Deloatch asked how many employees would work on the two trucks and if Campbell would look to Northampton County to hire employees.

Campbell said with the different shifts approximately 10 people would work between the two trucks and that he would hire everyone he could get from Northampton. He added the positions would require candidates to be certified EMTs or medical responders (those who drive ambulances).

Deloatch motioned that the franchise for Atlas Medical Transportation be approved upon Attorney Charles Vaughan meeting with Campbell to use “proper franchise language;” Commissioner Virginia Spruill offered a second.

The motion passed without objection.

Later in the meeting during board comments, Deloatch said he was glad the board approved the franchise and he hoped it would expand the competition, perhaps to the Choanoke Public Transportation Authority (CPTA).

“Ditto,” Spruill responded.