Mich. hospital will end EMS operations, terminate 74 employees

McLaren Bay Region officials said nonprofit Medstar Ambulance intends to operate from the hospital's former EMS stations


Cole Waterman
MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

BAY CITY, Mich. — McLaren Bay Region is ending its EMS services and terminating 74 employees by the end of the summer, though the company stepping in is looking to incorporate those workers into its new system.

The employees were notified of their impending job loss via a letter dated Tuesday, June 23 and sent to the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics labor union.

McLaren Bay Region hospital plans to end its EMS services and terminate 74 dispatchers and medics by the end of summer. (Photo/Kaytie Boomer, MLive.com)
McLaren Bay Region hospital plans to end its EMS services and terminate 74 dispatchers and medics by the end of summer. (Photo/Kaytie Boomer, MLive.com)

“The Hospital has decided to discontinue its emergency medical service (EMS) operations,” Regional Vice President of Human Resources Carolyn Potter writes in the letter. As a result, McLaren is permanently closing its four Bay County EMS locations:

  • 110 S. Washington Ave. in Bay City
  • 1209 E. Smith St. in Bay City
  • 4811 W. Professional Drive in Monitor Township
  • 1456 W. Center Road in Hampton Township

The hospital is also “permanently terminating” 74 EMT dispatchers and paramedics. The terminations take effect Aug. 29.

Potter’s letter goes on to state Clinton Township-based nonprofit Medstar Ambulance is buying the capital assets of McLaren Bay Region’s EMS operations and leasing the aforementioned locations.

“We are informed that Medstar intends to operate from those locations and may offer employment to some of the affected employees,” Potter wrote.

Magen Samyn, McLaren Bay Region’s vice president of marketing and business development, said discussions regarding this development have been going on with employees for about a year. She described the development as “an exciting opportunity for our community.”

“McLaren Bay Region is the only McLaren hospital who delivers our own EMS service,” Samyn said. “By joining with other health care organizations through Medstar, we have the opportunity to provide a better service to our community. Medstar does an exceptional job providing care and accomplishes it with the best response times and highest patient satisfaction. Medstar will be investing in services, additional vehicles, and new equipment. Our community will benefit from all of these investments into EMS.”

Medstar is composed of stakeholders from McLaren Health Care, Ascension-Michigan, and Henry Ford Health System, Samyn added.

“As we look at what services we want to provide and continue to better provide those services to our community and meeting the needs for ever-changing health care industry we look at who does it best, how to improve,” Samyn said. “Medstar is certainly one of the best in the country.”

She said it came down to Medstar offers superior service and was the best way to go.

“We recognize the commitment of McLaren Bay Region and the EMS employees over the last four decades, and look forward to building on that legacy with expanded services, additional vehicles, and new equipment,” said Kolby Miller, Medstar’s chief executive officer. “Medstar will also extend its EMT and nationally recognized paramedic education programs into Bay County as part of our training and workforce development initiatives. We look forward to welcoming the personnel from McLaren Bay Region into positions serving Bay County, as well as adding additional shifts and personnel.”

Miller added Medstar’s first goal in the transition was to offer employment to those qualified McLaren Bay Region employees affected by the transition, saying local EMTs and paramedics can best provide care.

“The number one thing on our punch list is to engage with employees there,” Miller said. “The service transition will be seamless from the public’s view. They’ll simply report to work the next day (Aug. 30) as Medstar employees.”

Medstar serves nine counties, has 680 employees, and is forecast to respond to 190,000 calls in 2020, Miller said. The company surveys nearly 100 percent of its patient population, yielding a 98.7 percent satisfaction rate, he added.

However, McLaren Bay Region paramedic Zane Rybkowski Jr. described Wednesday’s news as marking “a sad day for the residents of Bay County.”

Rybkowski received his EMT and paramedic training from McLaren EMS, he said. He would have had 14 years with the company this year.

“Our department was staffed with the majority of people that lived in Bay County, serving their friends, family and neighbors,” he said. “Many of our medics are seasoned with some having 30 to 35 years at Bay. We have weathered the pandemic with minimal PPE and no special considerations for our service. We have maintained a high quality of patient care. Our response times were excellent. We have assisted other counties during mutual aid requests.”

Rybkowski further questioned the idea of an EMS service from another area providing the same level of care.

“There is no guarantee that the same level of EMS coverage will remain in place,” he said. “Our EMS department was one of the last to be outsourced. We knew this was coming. It’s still hard to see a firm date of termination.”

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©2020 MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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