Urgent search continues for new Ill. city ambulance provider

The hunt for a service was triggered after the Hospital Sisters Health System announced it wants to shutdown the existing service provider


Tony Reid
Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill.

DECATUR, Ill. — The urgent search to find a new provider of ambulance services in Decatur continues, with one application received so far.

A working group spearheading the operation said that is a very early result for a search that's only been going for a week. In a news release Thursday it said "a number of private companies had expressed interest in serving our area."

"It was another productive meeting for the group and we look forward to further discussions with interested ambulance companies," said Deputy Decatur City Manager Jon Kindseth in the release.

"We are all working quickly to encourage as many companies as possible to respond to this invitation to serve as our community's EMS service."

Speaking to the Herald & Review, Kindseth said he expects more applications to provide service will soon follow after firms crunch the numbers. "And the fact that we've already got one application in a little over a week was frankly a bit surprising," he added.

The city, which must license any new provider, is represented on the working group along with Decatur's Fire Department, HSHS St. Mary's Hospital and Decatur Memorial Hospital, Crossing Healthcare and the Central Illinois Regional Dispatch Center.

The hunt to find a new ambulance service was triggered after the Hospital Sisters Health System, which owns St. Mary's, announced it wants to shutdown the existing service provider, Decatur Ambulance Service, by Sept. 1.

HSHS cited problems with finding qualified staff and rising costs for its wanting to pull the plug on Decatur Ambulance Service, which has been around since 1959. HSHS took it over in 2018.

HSHS had been vocal in a campaign to fend off a bid in 2018 by Champaign-based Arrow Ambulance to be licensed to provide service in Decatur. When the issue came to a vote in the city council, Arrow fell short by one vote.

Kindseth said the working group aims to "to encourage" all new service applicants to "consider extending employment opportunities to current DAS staff."

And he said the city is not going to limit Decatur's ambulance service to one provider if it can help it. "Some companies have asked about exclusivity and the city has so far said we are not ready to consider exclusivity," Kindseth added.

He said Decatur's situation with finding an ambulance service provider is far from unique as cities all over the country are affected by companies grappling with rising costs of everything from skilled personnel to fuel.

Statistics from 2020 said DAS had a fleet of 19 ambulances and a staff of 50 paramedics and 24 emergency medical technicians.

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(c)2022 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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