March 28, 2005
Scottsdale has yet to officially start the competition for its ambulance service contract. However, that has not stopped two emergency medical response companies from beginning the battle.
Rural/Metro Corp. has provided Scottsdale’s fire protection for more than 50 years, but is pulling its operations out of the city June 30. As the private firefighting company hands that responsibility over to Scottsdale’s new fire department it also will remove its ambulances from the city-owned stations.
However, Southwest Ambulance, a subsidiary of Rural/Metro, will continue service.
Professional Medical Transport poses the lone threat to Southwest.
In January, Bob Ramsey, regarded as a trailblazer in the ambulance industry, purchased a large share of Professional Medical. Ramsey founded Southwest, selling it to Rural/Metro in 1998.
After the sale, Ramsey became a Rural/Metro executive for two years before leaving the company to start several new ambulance firms.
In 2003, he was associated with one of the leaders in the failed election drive to oust the company from Scottsdale. At the time, Ramsey’s new company, Southwest Ambulance of Nevada, was applying with the Arizona Department of Health Services for certification to operate in Maricopa County. Ramsey told the Tribune then that he was not interested in running ambulances in Scottsdale.
Only weeks before the sale of Professional Medical to Ramsey was made public, the Scottsdale City Council announced its intention to open the ambulance contract to competition.
Professional Medical acted quickly. About a month ago, Ramsey said the firm conducted a poll of Scottsdale residents.
"I think it’s good to understand your market," Ramsey said.
Patrick Cantelme, head of 911 operations for Professional Medical, said it was not a poll as much as it was research to determine whether Scottsdale is a market the company could try to enter.
The poll asked residents about their quality of life, what they thought of local officeholders and how they rated their ambulance service, Cantelme said.
He declined to release the specific questions and resident responses, which may be used to compete for the contract.
Aside from Rural/Metro, Southwest and Professional Medical are the only ones certified to operate an emergency medical service in Scottsdale.
Even when Scottsdale terminates Rural/Metro’s ambulance contract, Southwest will continue to serve the city for a year.
Because Southwest and the new fire department will have to work hand-in-
hand, Fire Chief William McDonald is renegotiating parts of the contract.
Southwest spokesman Josh Weiss said Scottsdale may not need an open competition as they can reach an acceptable agreement with the city through renegotiations.
Not so, McDonald said, as the council directed him to terminate the Rural/Metro contract. The city is moving ahead to seek requests for ambulance service proposals.
"The clock is ticking and we’re moving down the pipe on this thing," Councilman Jim Lane said. "It’s already becoming pretty political."
Ramsey and Rural/Metro have been suspected of engaging in political warfare with each other in the past. More recently, Ramsey was in a fight that caught national attention.
In Contra Costa County, Calif., Ramsey, competing under the name StarWest Ambulance, lost an ambulance contract earlier this year to American Medical Response, the nation’s largest emergency medical response company. The fight was aggressive and politically charged, officials there said.
American Medical, which spent more than $130,000 on a county election, rankled some county officials, said Art Lathrop, Contra Costa emergency services director.
Professional Medical will stay above the fray in Scottsdale, Cantelme said. "We would like to move through this in as nonpolitical a way as possible."