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Bankruptcy judge approves Texas city’s purchase of EMS company for $1M

The City of Pharr’s purchase of Hidalgo County EMS includes nearly 100 ambulances, air ambulance services and existing contracts

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Photo/Hidalgo County EMS

By Laura French

PHARR, Texas — A bankruptcy judge approved a Texas city’s purchase of one of the state’s largest ambulance services for $1 million on Monday.

Through its purchase of the former Hidalgo County EMS, the City of Pharr will acquire assets including 98 ambulances, air ambulance services, all EMS equipment and the company’s existing contracts, according to a city press release.

The city is planning to use the purchased assets to launch its own Pharr Emergency Medical Services Department, which will be the sole primary provider of emergency ambulance services in the city. The new department will also provide service under Hidalgo EMS’s existing contracts with the City of Penitas, the City of Sullivan City, Hidalgo County Precinct 3, Hidalgo County Emergency Services District #2 and as backup to the City of Mission.

“The City of Pharr was aware of the large service area that Hidalgo County EMS serviced, and Pharr was in a favorable position to be able to step in and avoid the disruption of critical emergency medical services to these communities,” Pharr City Manager Ed Wylie said in a statement.

The purchase of Hidalgo County EMS was made using COVID-19 funding allocated to the city to support public health services during the pandemic. The former private ambulance service had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019 and became involved in legal issues including allegations it fraudulently received a $2.6 million Payment Protection Program loan last year. The service’s previous CEO and owner, Kenneth B. Ponce, pleaded guilty to bankruptcy fraud this March.

The City of Pharr is now awaiting a final review by a judge to have the service’s assets officially transferred to the city. Pharr Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator Danny Ramirez was named chief of Pharr EMS and the city will host a job fair on Friday, April 23 for EMS providers interested in joining the new agency.

“We are here to serve our community, and we will always be at the forefront of the latest research and programs to ensure our EMS Department employees are highly skilled, trained, qualified, and capable to provide these emergency medical services at the highest standard, which is what our community deserves,” City Commissioner Dr. Ramiro Caballero said in a statement.