Ambulance Service Closes; Johnston, Sampson Counties Seek Alternatives

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One of the primary sources of non-emergency medical transport in Johnston and Sampson counties is closed as of last night leaving county emergency officials, patients and their families desperate to meet critical needs.

Johnston Ambulance Services, or JAS, officially closed their doors Wednesday night leaving close to 400 people unemployed. No calls were taken after 7 p.m. in order to get all trucks off the road by midnight, according to owner Maynard Price.

Mr. Price said employees were told Monday about the closure. Nursing homes, emergency data centers and others affected were also notified.

“We wanted to give them as much notice as we could so they can be ready,” Mr. Price said.

He said the closure is going to create major problems in the area.

“Data centers are going to be in trouble starting tomorrow,” Mr. Price said Wednesday afternoon. “People might die without this service.”

The company operated 50 ambulances and made 250 to 300 trips a day before closing and was the largest private EMS provider in North Carolina.

It operated in 17 counties from Orange County, east as far as Craven County. That included both Johnston and Sampson counties in the local area. It was first started 35 years ago and Mr. Price has owned the company since 1999.

Mr. Price said the reason for the closure is simple. He said con- See Closes, Page 3

Johnston Ambulance Services is the largest privately-held medical transport business in the state.

Continued From Page One

tinued cuts in Medicare and Medicaid have reduced income flow for the company. He said the Affordable Care Act, known widely as Obamacare, also contributed.

“We weren’t getting paid,” Mr. Price said. “We can’t afford to run trips for nothing.”

He apologized to employees.

“I am sorry this has happened,” Mr. Price said. “We cannot go any further. I’ve got to pay these guys and pay insurance.”

Harnett County Emergency Services Director Services Jimmy Riddle said JAS does little transport work in Harnett County.

“We might have some that get transported from a nursing home in Smithfield or somewhere else in Johnston County, but we do most of our own,” Mr. Riddle said. The Harnett County Emergency Services Department handles all transport calls that originate in Harnett County.

“We are lucky here,” Mr. Riddle said. “People who used JAS are scrambling to find transport now.”

Johnston County EMS officials are working to make sure there is adequate non-emergency medical coverage starting tonight.

Josh Holloman, assistant director and EMS division chief with Johnston County Emergency Services, said in addition to JAS, the county also contracts with North State Medical Transport.

Arrangements are being made with North State along with two other companies, American Ambulance and Samaritan Ambulance, to provide coverage.

JAS was contracted to provide inter-facility transport, Mr. Holloman said, but JAS is not involved with emergency transports where you dial 911. He said he was sad to see the agency close.

Mr. Holloman said he feels confident the three ambulance companies can handle a good portion of the non-emergency transports, however the county is prepared to use 911 ambulances to transport patients until the private contractors can fully ramp up service.

Mr. Holloman said the closure of JAS will not impact response times for Johnston County EMS ambulances and contract agencies in Four Oaks, Selma and 50210, when someone dials 911. JAS and the other providers are responsible for non-emergency “scheduled” trips only.

Mr. Riddle said JAS was a major provider in Sampson County.

Sampson County Assistant County Manager and Public Information Officer Susan Holder said county staff met Wednesday to address the problem. In Sampson County there’s an ordinance that the agency providing medical transports must have a franchise agreement with the county, but it allows for temporary measures to be taken.

“Right now the best option for us is to enter into temporary contracts with other private providers,” she said.

Mr. Price said the closure of his business is indicative of a much wider problem.

He said is company is the fourth ambulance service in recent years to close.

“The whole health industry is in trouble in this country,” Mr. Price said. — WTSB News and Tom Woerner

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