Ambulance service provider contests Knox County recommendation

Ambulance service provider contests Knox County recommendation

Posted:
AMR spokesperson Mike Cohen says there was a conflict of interest among some members on the evaluating committee that may have unfairly influenced their thinking. AMR spokesperson Mike Cohen says there was a conflict of interest among some members on the evaluating committee that may have unfairly influenced their thinking.
"My goal was to select what company would provide the best care for the citizens at a reasonable rate," said Dr. Randall Dabb, the director of Team Health. "My goal was to select what company would provide the best care for the citizens at a reasonable rate," said Dr. Randall Dabb, the director of Team Health.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Two ambulance service providers are clashing over a lucrative multi-million dollar contract in Knox County.

American Medical Response (AMR) is challenging a recommendation that their competitor, Rural/Metro, keep the contract with the county.

Rural/Metro has been in charge of ambulance services in Knox County for the past 27 years, but their most recent contract is set to expire soon. 

The proposed contract agreement, announced late week, still needs approval by the Knox County Commission, which will vote on the matter Dec. 17.

On Tuesday afternoon, AMR filed a letter saying that the process that recommended Rural/Metro for the ambulance deal was wrong.

AMR's Protest Letter

There's a lot at stake with the contract. As it stands, Rural/Metro could make up to $60 million by continuing to provide services for Knox County.

AMR spokesperson Mike Cohen says there was a conflict of interest among some members on the evaluating committee that may have unfairly influenced their thinking.

The protest stated that Director of Knox County Emergency Preparedness Larry Hutsell attended the AMR presentation.

Hutsell administers and oversees Rural Metro's current contract with the county.

In the protest letter, AMR representatives state, "Mr. Hutsell seems to have sought employment with Rural Metro in 2011."

Hutsell also served as a reference for Rural/Metro's proposal.

"How could someone that served as a reference be a participant in the judging process? That's simply not fair," Cohen said.

Committee members made selections based on several different criteria.

Three members out of seven scored AMR highest, compared to three for Rural/Metro. A third company, Falk, received the highest score from one of the evaluators.

Cohen points to results from two members that chose Rural/Metro by a wide margin. 

Evaluator #2 awarded 815 points to Rural Metro while awarding 680 points  to AMR.  Evaluator #5 awarded 805 points to Rural Metro and 665 points to AMR.

In the end, Rural/Metro won with 5,312 points, compared to 5,240 for AMR - a difference of 72 points.

"It doesn't line up with what everyone else saw and it threw off the results. A majority of judges picked us," Cohen said.

A Rural/Metro spokesperson defended the county's recommendation.

"Knox County conducted an extremely fair and professional bid process for emergency medical services, and Rural/Metro followed the process to the letter. We are confident that our selection by the panel will be reaffirmed," the company said in an appeal statement.

"My goal was to select what company would provide the best care for the citizens at a reasonable rate," said Dr. Randall Dabb, the director of Team Health, the largest provider of emergency doctors in East Tennessee.

Dr. Dabb is a physician with TeamHealth, the largest physician providers in East Tennessee. Dabb was one of seven committee members on the panel.

"I don't know and I'm not sure that any of the members, I couldn't tell you who voted for either company. We've not really been discussed, that hasn't been shared with me," Dabb said.

AMR's protest letter questions Dabb's relationship with Rural/Metro.

According to the protest, TeamHealth website currently identifies Dr. Dabbs as the president of practice development for emergency medicine for TeamHealth and also notes that he was one of the company's co-founders.

Rural Metro's current medical director for the Knox County EMS system, Dr. Roger Brooksbank, works for TeamHealth as well.

The ambulance contract is supposed to be taken up at the Knox County Commission's work session next week.

Commissioner Ed Shouse said he heard the process went smoothly, but isn't surprised there was a protest.
     
"I understand how business works. If I was on the losing end of the contract, my company will stand to make millions and millions. I would be protesting too," said Shouse.

The letter says AMR had better response times than Rural/Metro and also had new equipment.

Hugh Holt, the county's purchasing director, said that he has five days to provide a response upholding or denying the assertions.

Rural/Metro's ambulance services were lower than any other proposer, although the cost will increase 12 percent from the current contract.

If their contract is accepted, the company would not be allowed to raise rates for at least three years.

The contract is good for five years and includes two five-year options.

American Medical Response (AMR) and Falck had also submitted bids.

The seven evaluators, confirmed by the Knox County Mayor's office, were:

Martha Buchanan, M.D., director, Knox County Health Department.

Jason Lay, CPA, Knox County Finance Department accounting manager who handles financial reporting for the Knoxville-Knox County Emergency Communications District.

Matt Meyers, the Knox County Deputy Director of Purchasing.

Capt. Brent Seymour, a paramedic and chief of EMS with the city of Knoxville Fire Department where he oversees the fire department's First Responder Program. He holds a master's degree in public administration.

Jeff Gregory, a 34-year EMS worker with experience with the Knoxville Volunteer Rescue Squad. A paramedic, he currently serves as the director of aero-medical services for UT Medical Services.

Ken Wilkerson, an emergency room paramedic who now serves as mayor of Lakesite, a suburb of Chattanooga. He is a certified EMS administrator.

Randall Dabbs, M.D., a physician with TeamHealth, EMS coordinator for Neyland Stadium and medical director for Knox County E-911.

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