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Northampton rejects two providers

JACKSON — Two requests for non-emergency transport franchises have been turned down by Northampton County officials.

On Monday, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners denied non-emergency transport franchises for K&L Transport Service and Med-Ex Medical Transport Services as recommended by the Northampton Rescue Association.

According to Northampton County EMS Director Charles Joyner, the county currently has two out-of-county providers (Eastern Medical Transport and Roanoke Valley Rescue Squad), as well as an in county transport company, Atlas Medical Transport based in Garysburg.

“Northampton County also franchises the county’s volunteer squads for non-emergency as well as emergency transportation,” said Joyner.

He noted Gaston EMS and Conway-Severn Rescue Squad provide non-emergency transport services and are using the revenue to update and purchase needed equipment in order to provide emergency and rescue services.

“Woodland EMS and Jackson Rescue Squad have also expressed an interest in beginning to provide non-emergency transports,” said Joyner.

In accordance with the county’s ambulance franchise ordinance, both requests were brought before the Northampton County Rescue Association on July 12 which unanimously voted on both requests to recommend not approving anymore franchises in the county based upon the consensus that all non-emergency transports were being handled in a timely manner and additional non-emergency providers could not be justified.

Joyner said he contacted nursing facilities and assisted living centers in the county by phone and none have reported a delay in getting non-emergency transports handled.

The Northampton County Rescue Association also citied more non-emergency franchises would be “financially detrimental” to the volunteer rescue squads and could require the county to further financially supplement the volunteer squads due to potential loss of revenue.

Joyner contacted the owner of K&L Transport Service, based out of Tarboro, as well as Med-Ex, based out of Ahoskie, for the meeting. Representatives from Med-Ex were in attendance for the meeting while none were present from K&L Transport Service.

The commissioners gave their decision for K&L first, agreeing with the recommendation from the Northampton County Rescue Association and voting unanimously not to grant the company a franchise.

In relation to Med-Ex Medical Transport Service, Joyner said the company was interested in servicing the eastern portion of the county in the Rich Square, Woodland and Conway areas; specifically the Highway 35 corridor.

The board heard from Med-Ex Director Charles Jones before they gave their decision.

Jones, retired as Hertford County EMS Director, said Med-Ex is a new company established in May and is looking to expand their services.

“The reason why we chose the district on the east side (is that) we transport patients to R-CH (Roanoke-Chowan Hospital) and back home to the Conway area, to the Rich Square area,” he said. “And often times we do get called to come back and pick the patient up because they are being served by Roanoke-Chowan Hospital.”

Jones said the company hires from within Northampton County and will have six people on the payroll from Northampton County.

He added that the parent company of Med-Ex is Home Life Care, which employs 65 people from Northampton.

“We are just asking to be franchised, give us one year,” he said. “We’re not trying to infringe on any rescue squad or any other service, that’s why we picked a small corridor, the (Highway) 35 corridor, and the reason for that is, at the time we proposed the franchise, none of the volunteers were providing non-emergency transportation.”

Jones concluded that as the population grows older the need for non-emergency transport services will increase.

Marshall Lassiter, representing the Conway-Severn Rescue Squad, asked to address the board concerning Med-Ex’s request for a non-emergency franchise.

Lassiter said on August 1, the rescue squad employed four full time people from Northampton County and the squad does provide non-emergency transport service.

Lassiter said he wanted to establish the difference between a transport company and a rescue squad.

“Who comes out in the times of floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and those times that we have to come together to work for the betterment of all? It’s not the transport companies, because they transport and that’s their business to transport,” he said. “It is us (emergency responders) that answer the calls at two and four in the morning for the heart attacks, the sick calls and all of the other. And who do we serve? The people of Northampton County.”

He added that the rescue squad had been providing emergency services since 1977. Lassiter said the squad is a volunteer unit. The organization recently began to charge for services (including transport) and according to Lassiter, that is the only way the rescue squad can survive.

“I submit to you that there are a sufficient number, an abundant number, of transporters for the services required in the county,” he said. “I would respectfully request that you deny the last request.”

Commissioner Robert Carter moved to accept the recommendation from the Northampton County Rescue Association to deny the franchise request from Med-Ex. Commission Vice Chair James Hester offered a second and the measure passed without objection in a 4-0 vote with Commissioner Virginia Spruill absent from the meeting.

In August of last year, the commissioners granted a non-emergency transport franchise to Atlas Medical Transport against the recommendations of the Northampton County Rescue Association as well as Joyner, Finance Officer Dot Vick and County Manager Wayne Jenkins.