The Norman Transcript

May 11, 2007

Moore council seeking RFPs on ambulance service


Transcript Staff Writer

MOORE -- Even though city officials say they're "quite happy" with the city's present ambulance service, the Moore City Council voted 6-0 this week to see if they could find a better deal.

The council's action clears the way for Norman Regional Hospital -- and possibly others -- to bid on the service.

Currently the city of Moore has a contract with the Midwest City Ambulance Service. That contract makes MCAS the "exclusive ambulance responder" for Moore's 911 system. And while city officials say they are pleased with Midwest City's service, they are also just as quick to talk about the need to reduce costs.

Enter Norman Regional Hospital.

"As I think everyone knows, Norman Regional Hospital purchased the Moore hospital," city manager Steve Eddy said at Monday's council meeting. "...and they have indicated interest in, perhaps, bidding for, and looking at ambulance service here."

In fact, the council's agenda item calling for the ambulance RFP was done at the request of Norman Regional, Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis said.

"Yes, it (the RFP vote) was in response to a request from Norman Regional," Lewis said. "We told them we were quite happy with Midwest City and not looking to change, but their CEO said he thought they could make the runs cheaper."

A bid from NRH, Lewis said, also would be underscored by the fact the system recently purchased the bankrupt Moore Medical Center for $32.25 million.

"Having the ambulance service out of Norman Regional could make the hospital (Moore Medical Center) and Cleveland County stronger," Lewis said. "And we wouldn't mind making them stronger."

Early this year, as Norman Regional's purchase of the Moore Medical Center was being completed, NRH chief executive officer David Whitaker told The Transcript his system "was very interested" in operating the ambulance service in Moore.

Wednesday evening, Whitaker reiterated that statement.

"We are interested in the ambulance coverage for the city of Moore, in conjunction with their city government," Whitaker said. "At this point NRH doesn't have a proposal out there, but we will follow up with the city manager."

And while Moore officials praise MCAS' service, costs, they say, are another reason for seeking new proposals.

"They've done a good job," city manager Steve Eddy said. But a new request for proposals would allow city staff members "to see if there is a better match" available.

"What we're asking for y'all to do is simply to go out with a proposal and go through this process of interviewing and looking at whatever ambulance services are out there, and see if there is a better match with terms to service level and also costs," Eddy told members of the council.

Moore's current ambulance contract allows MCAS to charge $475 as a "base rate" for urgent-emergency transport "with additional charges contingent on type of emergency and supplies and equipment used."

Other charges detailed in the contact include $300 for a "scheduled routine transport," a $5 per mile charge for each emergency transport, a $4 per mile charge for each routine transport, and a $30 fee for 60 minutes of oxygen used in conjunction with the transport.

Those charges are paid by ambulance patients and their insurance companies, Eddy said. "The city does not put any money into that service now. It's paid for by insurance companies and the people with them, and, unfortunately, costs keep rising."

Still, while the city is now seeking new proposals for the service, that doesn't mean the service would change.

"Midwest City has always been good," Lewis said. "They've responded well. And a new RFP doesn't necessarily mean change, but it might mean a cheaper price."

Moore city officials, Lewis said, are not unhappy, but "trying to get a better deal" for residents. "If it's cheaper for the citizens and they get the same level of service, it would make sense for the hospital-ambulance contract."

The fact that Moore is now seeking proposals doesn't surprise Midwest City ambulance officials.

"We've had it (the contract) for 11 years without going through this process," said Larry Terry, director of emergency medical services for Midwest City Regional. "We had a good idea with Norman acquiring the Moore hospital that this would happen. It's only logical they'd want to branch out into that area."

In spite of that, Terry said he believes Midwest City will keep the contract.

"Oh yes, we will definitely be submitting a proposal," he said. "With our performance and level of service, I believe we have a good chance of keeping that contract. Moore is a good place to be, and the contract is something we'd like to hang on to."

M. Scott Carter 366-3545 scarter@normantranscript.com