Ambulance firm tells competitor to cease

FAYETTEVILLE — Central EMS officially notified Caliber Patient Care to stick to the area of patient transport the private ambulance service is allowed to provide.

Caliber is a private company that agreed to take over only nonemergency wheelchair transportation services from Central EMS in March. Washington Regional Medical Center uses three private ambulance companies, including Caliber, to transport its patients in wheelchairs.

Central EMS transports nonemergency patients on stretchers, Chief Becky Stewart said. Caliber was also taking patients on stretchers. That is an overstep, Stewart said.

Central EMS officials said previously that the wheelchair service was too expensive to continue.

State law allows Central EMS to organize as an exclusive provider. No other private company or hospital is allowed to provide emergency or nonemergency transport in Washington County because Central EMS was created under an agreement of 12 cities and the county.

“If we allow [services] to be piecemealed out, then the funding is what follows that, and we won’t be able to maintain our level of service,” Stewart said. “It’s imperative that we maintain the integrity of the interlocal agreement.”

Central EMS’s service area in Washington County does not include Springdale, which has its own ambulance service.

Terry Cosby, Caliber’s chief operating officer, said his company will comply with the letter and not offer services covered by Central EMS. Caliber and Central EMS had a misunderstanding, Cosby said Wednesday. He did not respond to further questions submitted by email.

Allowing Caliber to offer the same services as Central EMS would hurt the public ambulance service, Central EMS officials said.

Competition from private ambulance services could diminish Central EMS’s ability to provide reliable and cost-effective coverage countywide, said Jack Butt, an attorney who advises Central EMS.

“EMS is proper to be concerned,” Butt said.

The public ambulance service gets revenue from transportation services, which helps keep costs down for member cities and the county, said David Dayringer, chairman of the ambulance authority’s executive committee and Fayetteville Fire Department chief. It subsidizes the ambulance service, he said in an email.

Having a private company try to take over services provided by Central EMS is rare, although Caliber isn’t the only entity they’re watching, Butt said.

The Ambulance Authority reminded Northwest…

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