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Detroit mayor announces plan to privatize EMS, gets no takers

"Last week we brought our rig in for maintenance, and the mechanic told us, 'Brakes, tires or steering. Pick any two'

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DETROIT — A plan to privatize the broken Detroit EMS system ran into a significant roadblock today when it was revealed that no major private EMS providers had submitted proposals.

Mayor Dave Bing was unavailable for comment, but a spokesman for the mayor's office confirmed that bidding closed today with only one proposal submitted, which the spokesman described as "not serious."

The company submitting the proposal, AngelStat Medical Transport of Flint, operates six ambulances with 37 employees, and runs dialysis and hospice transfers in Flint and surrounding areas.

AngelStat owner Derek Lovell defended his bid, stating, "Hey, we have more functioning ambulances than Detroit Fire EMS, and our response times don't have to be measured with a calendar. We can totally do this."

A Detroit City Councilman, speaking off the record, stated, "There's no question it's a disappointing development. As bad as things are, I had hoped that at least one company would think they can make a go of this.

"I mean, you'd think Matt Millen was running the department or something. No one wants anything to do with it."

Plagued with excessive response times and multiple rigs out of service at any one time, Detroit's paramedics are overworked and understaffed.

And with the city's decaying infrastructure, dwindling tax base and huge budget shortfalls, better times aren't on the horizon.

Citing cost-saving concerns, city leaders began investigating privatization of EMS back in January, believing that a private ambulance provider could operate the EMS system more efficiently, and save the city millions of dollars a year in the process. Union officials disagree, saying that it would cost the city more, and take control of EMS out of city hands.

American Medical Response of Greenwood Village, Colo., the nation's largest EMS provider, expressed early interest in the Detroit contract, but then inexplicably withdrew from negotiations before submitting a formal proposal.

When asked to explain AMR's sudden reversal of interest, AMR Business Development Director Melvin Wheatley stated he was not at liberty to say.

Mr. Wheatley did express potential AMR interest if Detroit officials reopened the bidding, asking, "What was Rural Metro's offer? Whatever it was, we'll bid a million dollars more. Or less. Less means Rural Metro gets the contract, right?"

"All I know is that I'd work for Satan himself if he could put up a half dozen more ambulances with working air conditioners," said one Detroit paramedic. "Last week we brought our rig in for maintenance, and the mechanic told us, 'Brakes, tires or steering. Pick any two.'               

We're sterilizing and re-sharpening used IV needles and turning our gloves inside out so we can wear them a second time, for Pete's sake. We need help."

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