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DOH cancels ambulance provider contracts

LIHU‘E — The state Department of Health (DOH) announced the cancellation of its decision to switch to a new emergency medical provider for both Maui and Kaua‘i, admitting to flaws in its procurement process following protests by current provider American Medical Response (AMR).

In August, the DOH awarded emergency medical provider Falck with 3.5-year contracts, totaling roughly $32 million for Kaua‘i and $59 million for Maui, to provide ambulance services on both islands.

But on Monday, the DOH announced both its procurement and award to Falck had been canceled following their review of AMR’s protest

AMR has provided the service on both islands for over 44 years, and the organization immediately protested the decision. They cited errors with the terms of the DOH’s request for proposals, specifically the removal of a previous requirement that every ambulance be an Advanced Life Support (ALS) unit.

Speedy Bailey, the regional director of AMR in Hawaii, was happy to hear the state’s decision.

“I felt good. I felt positive,” he said in an interview with The Garden Island on Tuesday afternoon.

“I felt that this was in the best interest of the communities we serve. We also believe it’s in the best interest of the state to get the best provider for these very important services,” added Bailey, who noted AMR believes the DOH “made the right decision.”

Both Falck and AMR representatives plan to go after the contracts again during the restarted application period.

“We just look forward to working with the state on a fair and diligent procurement process,” Bailey said.

Jeff Lucia, the communications director for Falck, told The Garden Island that his organization would continue to compete for the contracts.

”Falck is committed to continue competing for the honor of serving and delivering best-in-class ambulance services to Kaua‘i and Maui County,” said Lucia in an email response. “We look forward to reviewing the Hawai‘i Department of Health’s new request for proposal when it is issued.”

Falck has continued to maintain that claims their organization would reduce services on both islands were incorrect, and that they would meet or exceed the current level of care for emergency services on both islands.

The DOH admitted the ALS unit requirement was not clearly included, stating it was the reason why Kenneth Fink, the DOH’s Director of Health made the Monday decision to cancel the procurement.

“Fink determined that while Emergency Medical Services and Injury Systems Branch may have intended to maintain the current staffing level for ALS ground ambulances when it issues the request for proposals, that requirement was not clearly included,” the DOH said.

Fink apologized for the uncertainty created by the previous procurement.

“I’d like to reassure the residents of Kaua‘i and Maui that the next RFPs will be clear that the current ambulance staffing level will be maintained,” said Fink in a statement.

David Kingdon, the spokesperson for both the Maui and Kaua‘i Paramedics Association, said he was pleased that the DOH acknowledged its flaws in the application process and is committed to starting anew.

“It is our hope that DOH will collaborate directly with the Kaua‘i Paramedics Association and the Maui County Paramedics Association as their respective county’s RFPs are redrafted,” Kingdon said.

AMR’s current contract will be extended to ensure ambulance services for Maui and Kaua‘i residents continue, said the DOH, and the department intends to begin a new procurement process in the coming weeks.

“The next step is to ensure that the extension granted to American Medical Response is long enough to sufficiently provide our system and our emergency responders with the stability that they need right now,” Kingdon said.

The DOH did not say how long AMR’s contract would be extended.

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Emma Grunwald, reporter, can be reached at 808-652-0638 or egrunwald@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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