Financial collapse: What bankruptcy means for EMS

Not much change in the short run, but what about long term?


It didn't take too long for Rural/Metro to enter Chapter 11 protection after the story first made the news. Based on the dozen or so headlines, there don't appear to be too many operational changes happening, which comes as a relief to communities and employees alike. That's the advantage of seeking bankruptcy in a controlled process.

What is worrisome is what will happen in the weeks and months ahead. "Restructuring" in EMS will mean leaner operations. Among other cost-cutting measures, that means reducing overhead from staffing and reducing the number of poorly performing contracts. These actions pose a great threat to EMS providers — who already struggle to make a living wage in areas that barely support an EMS service. 

I can't say I blame the organization for taking this option; it's certainly better than simply closing all of its doors at once. What I do hope is that this action will have folks in position of responsibility for their EMS systems to take a close look at their system providers' ability to provide service in unstable times. Not just contracted providers, mind you; public agencies have also struggled for years to meet response times. 

Like any medical condition, Rural/Metro's financial collapse is more of a sign than an underlying condition. The real issue is that current funding for EMS does not meet the public expectation for service. All services require funding for staffing and equipment. Without enough cash, systems will fail.

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