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Mich. EMS to expand 15-county service area in merger

Mobile Medical Response and North Flight EMS officials said the merger is an opportunity to improve training and maximize valuable tools and resources


Mobile Medical Response will expand its 15-county, 8,000-square-mile service territory in a merger with North Flight EMS.

Photo/Mobile Medical Response

Jordan Travis
The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Nonprofit ambulance company Mobile Medical Response Inc.’s already huge service territory will grow even larger when North Flight EMS merges with the company.

Munson Healthcare, which runs North Flight EMS as a wholly owned subsidiary, announced the equity partnership agreement Wednesday. Both are working out a transition plan, and Mark Deponio, Munson Healthcare senior vice president and North Flight EMS president, said the deal is effective Dec. 1.

Combining the two ambulance services is about bringing in Mobile Medical Response’s vast resources for everything from vehicle maintenance to electronic health records to staff training, Deponio said.

“We’ve already got excellent paramedics and EMTs, this is about the tools, if you will, they use to do their work, this is about improving those and bringing more resources to the area,” he said.

The collaboration also aims to train even more paramedics and EMTs in the face of a shortage, Deponio said.

Mobile Medical Response CEO Mark Thompson agreed, and said combining both ambulance services’ training programs could fill a void left in recent years when other training opportunities in the state vanished.

Those in North Flight EMS’ service area will notice MMR-branded ambulances after the merger takes effect, but that change should be it — both Deponio and Thompson said response times won’t be impacted, and Thompson said out-of-pocket costs for those transported by an ambulance should stay the same.

Plus, the vast majority of North Flight EMS will have the chance to transfer to MMR and keep the same pay and seniority, Deponio said. Some layoffs are possible — Deponio said dispatch functions will be centralized with MMR and transition plans are in the works for North Flight EMS’ seven-person dispatch team.

Otherwise, MMR needs whoever’s willing to transfer, Thompson said.

“If they choose to come to MMR, we’ll be glad to have them,” he said.

North Flight EMS provides primary 911 service for Traverse City and Acme, Garfield and Long Lake townships, Deponio said. It also serves most of Manistee and Wexford counties, although its ambulances respond even farther when working with other EMS agencies on emergency calls. Plus, inter-facility transfers can take its ambulances far and wide.

Saginaw-based Mobile Medical Response — often shortened to MMR — covers around 8,000 square miles across 15 counties, according to information from the company. Part of its territory already includes Elk Rapids, Milton Township in Antrim County and Whitewater Township in Grand Traverse County.

Thompson said MMR’s co-owned by Covenant Healthcare and Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital — both in Saginaw — so partnering with another hospital was a necessary move for the ambulance service’s future.

Munson Healthcare will become part-owner of MMR, and gain one seat each on its board and finance committee, according to a release.

Acme and Garfield townships have agreements with North Flight EMS to base ambulances at Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department stations within those townships, department Chief Pat Parker said. He added that he, along with township leaders, hope to speak to an MMR representative soon about the future of those arrangements.

North Flight Aero Med, a separate air EMS company jointly owned by Munson Healthcare and Spectrum Health, isn’t affected by the merger, Deponio said.


©2020 The Record-Eagle (Traverse City, Mich.)

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