COLLIER COUNTY — A private ambulance company gained approval Tuesday to do business in Collier County next January. The deal comes on the heels of an ambulance delay recently at the Marco Island Urgent Care Center which may have contributed to a man’s death.
Commissioners, in a 4-1 vote, gave the county license to Ambitrans Medical Transport, a Charlotte County-based company.
The company provides non-emergency ambulance service elsewhere in Southwest Florida for patients between hospitals and nursing homes.
In Collier, the company has been working with local hospitals when patients need to be taken out of county to other medical centers.
Commissioner Georgia Hiller, who cast the dissenting vote, wanted more information about how Ambitrans’ operates, the training of its paramedics and what the demand level will be for the non-emergency ambulance services. She also raised concerns that the company would be gaining an exclusivity foothold.
“I want to have the full impact of what this means to the county and I don’t see that today,” she said.
County Manager Leo Ochs said the county did not solicit bids for the service; instead the company submitted an application to start providing service between local hospitals. Ochs said he is obligated to bring the application to the board.
Ochs said there are about 1,900 to 2,000 ambulance trips made annually in Collier between hospitals, nursing homes and elsewhere. The rates that Ambitrans can provide patients are lower than what the county offers, Ochs said. Ambitrans will be paid by patients.
Earlier this month, 80-year-old Paul Anderson died at NCH Downtown Naples Hospital, the day after he waited nearly an hour for an NCH-owned ambulance to take him to the hospital from the Marco urgent care center. NCH has been licensed since 2004 to handle its own internal transports.
NCH last week informed the county that it was voluntarily stopping its ambulance program because of what transpired with Anderson.
Michael Grant, chief executive officer of Ambitrans, said his company has been wanting to expand its services in Collier for several year, even before NCH got its license.
The county’s approval to Ambitrans is for one year. Grant said he will hire local state-certified paramedics and will not compete with EMS. He said the company will find a local operations base that is centrally located between NCH and the Physicians Regional Healthcare System.