Bertie seeks EMS options

Published 8:33 am Thursday, December 12, 2013

WINDSOR – A temporary restraining order has been issued against the private ambulance service, First Med, restraining it from removing any of its ambulances, monitors, or other equipment, and allowing Bertie County’s Emergency Management Office to operate using these said items until further order by the court.

The restraining order was signed on Tuesday by 7th District Superior Court Judge Quentin Sumner of NashCounty.

A hearing on the ten-day return on the return of the Order has been set for Dec. 20 with a Superior Court judge to be determined.

The restraining order comes after First Med informed the Bertie County Board of Commissioners on Monday that it would be declaring Chapter-7 bankruptcy as of Wednesday.

Already in a total of six states, more than 2,000 paramedics and other emergency workers are out of a job after First Med shut down operations without explanation over the weekend.

The Wilmington-based company abruptly folded its tent Friday and Saturday, leaving hospitals and other medical facilities scrambling for medical transportation options in more than 70 municipalities in Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

In BertieCounty it ceased operations just two months into a five-year contract. That EMS agreement, the first of its kind in the state between public and private entities, had became effective on Oct. 1.

After an emergency meeting of the county’s Board of Commissioners, the county, through BOC chairman, J. Wallace Perry, declared a state of emergency and said it also would pursue legal action against First Med.

The assistant county attorney, Jonathan Huddleston, on Tuesday filed a lawsuit for breach of contract against First Med; citing that the company’s shutdown “creates an imminent threat to the life and safety of the citizens of Bertie County”.

The county is also seeking a copy of First Med’s Performance Bond and proof of insurance coverage – including umbrella coverage – that should have been obtained when First Med began its EMS operations in the county.

In the meantime, Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer told the News-Herald that the county is in ongoing talks with MEDEX Corp. of Ahoskie regarding the use of some of their ambulances.

“We met with them for several hours and there’s been no complete resolution,” said Sauer. “But we have made great progress.”

Sauer also says of the $310,000 per year over the five years of the contract that First Med was due to be paid; only $51,600 has actually gone to First Med as payment. This amount possibly covers a total, or pro-rated, portion of the little more than two months that First Med operated in BertieCounty.

A second emergency meeting of the Bertie Commissioners is set for (Thursday at 10 a.m. in the commissioner’s meeting room where a new update will be given and more options will be discussed.

Meanwhile, Bertie County EMS was up and running on Wednesday, answering emergency medical calls.