Allegany County Public Safety Committee contracts with Medical Transport Services, Inc.

Read the Q&A with County Administrator Carissa Knapp

By Andrew Harris

Allegany County lawmakers on the Public Safety Committee had a closed-door debate regarding a contract with Scio NY, Medical Transport Services (MTS). At the end of this debate, the committee immediately decided to approve a contract with MTS for an amount not to exceed $600,000 over the next six months.

The move comes as uncertainty about the future of medical transportation options in Allegany County grows. Volunteer ambulance corps seem to be a thing of the past. Public safety officials have warned that vital services like ambulance, fire and rescue could be seriously compromised without action.

Allegany County released this statement regarding the proposed contract with MTS:

“The Allegany County Board of Legislators is committed to improving emergency management services in Allegany County. Throughout the year, Allegany County took several steps to achieve this goal, including establishing an EMS Advisory Council and appointing an EMS Medical Director. As the county looks for ways to secure the long-term future of EMS services in the county, it has become clear that our future depends on securing ambulance services that augment the dedicated efforts of our volunteer agencies. Today, the county is taking a giant leap forward in those efforts by collaborating with Medical Transport Services, Inc. (MTS), the leading private provider of EMS services in Allegany County, by entering into a contract with MTS while the parties begin discussions regarding the possibility of the county taking over ambulance operations.
Please contact the County Administrator’s Office with any questions at (585) 268-9217.

County Administrator Carissa Knapp answered a few questions we had about the deal and explained the bigger picture in more detail:

WS: Will this deal that has been approved by the Public Safety Committee and the Ways and Means Committee require a full council vote? Will this contract be made public before the October 12 meeting?

Knapp: First of all, yes, the contract absolutely requires full Board approval and the contract will be available next week before the Board meeting. It will be added to the Board’s record as soon as both parties’ legal teams complete their review. That said, it may not be in the first version of the package that our council clerk sends. If it is not in the first version, the package will be modified before the meeting as soon as possible.

WS: Is this a new idea or did MTS and the county negotiate this contract?

Knapp: The collaboration and the contract are two very new ideas. As many know, Medical Transport Services, Inc. (MTS) was started by Dan Marsh in 1979 and Dan and his wife Annette have owned and operated it ever since. MTS started as a small operation with Dan and a vehicle and has grown into a major private company that has the only countywide Certificate of Need (CON) in the county.

WS: Can you explain what a CON is?

Knapp: If you’re not familiar with a CON, it’s the operating authority of an ambulance and county-wide means it can operate anywhere in the county. In contrast, all other public and private EMS agencies currently operating in Allegany County only have CONs limited to much smaller geographic areas.

WS: Has the MTS business been put up for sale?

Knapp: Towards the end of 2020, Dan publicly announced that he was working on an ownership transition so that he could eventually step down and hopefully turn the company over to someone willing to continue MTS’s service in all of Allegany County. Currently, Dan’s retirement and transition is incomplete.

At the same time that Dan was working to phase out his retirement, the overall nature of emergency medical services was changing due to a number of factors, including the impact of Covid-19, burdensome new regulations and the shrinking the number of volunteers. Due to these new challenges, the Allegany County Board of Legislators entered 2022 with emergency medical services as one of its top priorities. Over the past few months, the Board has been working on creating an EMS Advisory Board, hiring an EMS Medical Director, and brainstorming how best to coordinate our private and volunteers. One concept for improved coordination involved the county creating its own county-wide municipal CON that could potentially be used to form a county-wide self-help system by allowing the county to contract with many EMS agencies under its own CON umbrella. The county has taken preliminary steps to research and work on this idea, but the process of creating a municipal CON could take months or even years.

WS: Is the county considering buying MTS?

Knapp: Earlier this week, MTS approached the county and asked if the county would be interested in buying MTS and transferring its assets and the county-wide prearranged CON to the county rather than the county trying to create your own CON from scratch. The idea is definitely intriguing because it would expedite a process the county was already considering and allow the county to dive into the depths of EMS coordination and mutual aid rather than taking it slow. While the government is normally reluctant to take a deep dive, EMS is an essential service that we cannot afford to delay action any longer than necessary. We need every volunteer and private agency to succeed and this could be a great opportunity for the county to take quick action to better coordinate and support all of our agencies.

WS: Can you tell us more about the contract itself and what comes next?

Knapp: The contract the Board is voting on is a contract to support MTS as the sole EMS agency with a countywide CON for the next six months. In exchange for these services, Allegany County and MTS will enter into discussions about whether the county should acquire MTS’s business, including its assets and countywide CON. If this is the end result, the funds spent on the contract will offset any purchase price. In the meantime, if MTS moves to another owner, the funds spent on the contract could be returned to the county. Indeed, the county is moving quickly to support MTS’s current countywide operations while ensuring the county has a seat at the table as MTS searches for a new owner.

If approved, the contract will be a six-month contract and there will certainly be a lot to discuss moving forward, including what a county-run EMS agency might look like: how many employees would it have? ?, how would it be funded?, and how could it be organized to better value our voluntary agencies? While the focus of this current conversation is on MTS, the most important takeaway is that the county is only considering this contract because the board places an extremely high value on every EMS agency in the county and the board is looking for the best avenues available to support these agencies and ensure and improve public access to EMS services across the county.

Again, this is all very new and I’m sure County and MTS will both have more to say as we move forward in these conversations.

Did reading all this make you hungry? Head to Alfred NY tonight and enjoy the rosebush on Main Street