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With ambulance service shutting down, Ill. city begins search for agency

Decatur Ambulance Service was founded in 1959 and was acquired by Hospital Sisters Health System in 2018


Donnette Beckett
Herald & Review

DECATUR, Ill. — Proposals are being accepted from those interested in providing ambulance services for Decatur following the announcement this week that the existing company will close on Sept. 1.

“Everyone is committed to finding the best ambulance services that will ensure continuity for our citizens,” said Decatur City Manager Scot Wrighton, referring to the committee that has been formed to address the situation. “This is a group effort and we are confident the end result won’t mean more burden on the taxpayers.”

The committee comprises leaders from city of Decatur management and the fire chief, HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital, Decatur Memorial Hospital, Crossing Healthcare and the Central Illinois Regional Dispatch Center.

Hospital Sisters Health System announced Monday that it is closing Decatur Ambulance Service. In addition to Decatur, the ambulance service also provides emergency transportation in Pana and Shelbyville.

According to a news release issued by the city, the group met Tuesday to coordinate a plan for securing new ambulance services and is now accepting proposals. A copy of the “invitation to submit proposals” is available at the city clerk’s office in the Decatur Civic Center, 1 Gary K. Anderson Plaza.

Decatur Ambulance Services was purchased by Hospital Sisters Health System in 2018. The local ambulance service was founded in 1959.

The Decatur group believes that “replacing the single current private-service provider with one or multiple providers is the speediest and least costly option to move forward,” they stated in the news release. “Having more than one provider is preferred, as it provides extra layers of coverage for our community and competition. Many central Illinois cities use this model where high-quality EMS/medical 911 services are provided by a private company or multiple companies. In this way, EMS does not have to be financially supported by government taxation.”

Once a suitable company or companies has been found, the license to operate ambulance service will extend to Decatur only.

The situation appears less dire in Pana.

Pana Community Hospital sent a statement to the Herald & Review on Tuesday, after news of the closure broke on Monday. “The care of our patients is always our top priority. We are extremely fortunate to have several transport resources available in the Pana area. We will continue to work with our other partners to ensure 24-hour coverage to transport patients,” said Trina Casner, Pana Community Hospital president and CEO, in the statement.

In a statement announcing plans to close the service, Hospital Sisters spokeswoman Jennifer Snopko said factors that drove the decision included the difficulty of finding qualified candidates for open positions and the cost of equipment and vehicles.

The announced closure comes four years after a competing ambulance company fell one vote short of being licensed by the Decatur City Council. Champaign-based Arrow Ambulance, which was being backed by Decatur Memorial Hospital, had sought to become the city’s second licensed provider.

St. Mary’s and Decatur Ambulance Service leaders fought the move, arguing that the city did not need additional emergency transport, and that introducing another company would hurt the current business and put paramedics out of work.


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