Narrow council vote gives the green light to ambulance service company

  • May. 10, 2011 2:00 p.m.

TREENA MIELKE/Rimbey Review

Rimbey town council has given the green light to an offer by Associated Ambulance & Service (Whitecourt) Ltd. to purchase its town-owned ambulance service.

The offer came less than two months after the town opted to turn the ambulance service back to the province, thereby council is still within the allotted 180-day time frame to rescind that motion and accept the offer to purchase.

In a 3-2 vote, council accepted the offer to purchase the ambulance service for $448,775.01 at a special meeting held May 4. The final purchase will depend on approval from Alberta Health Services.

Rimbey CEO Tony Goode said the province has four to six weeks to make a decision.

Councillors Gail Rondeel and Paul Payson voted against the motion.

Rondeel was concerned that the response time might be longer as ambulance employees might not be familiar with the area. She was also concerned as to what hospital the ambulance would transport patients to.

Coun. Payson noted that other offers to purchase coming from Guardian Ambulance Service and Lakeside EMS Inc. needed to be considered even though both companies were offering only $400,000 for the service.

“What if all these bids were $400,000?” he said.

“Financially I get it. $48,000 is $48,000, but I want to make the decision that is best for the town, not just financially.”

However, Coun. Joe Anglin who made the motion to accept the purchase, said Associated Ambulance & Service was the best deal overall.

Anglin noted that one of the conditions of Associated’s offer to purchase was that an initial deposit of $20,000 be paid upon acceptance of the initial offer with the balance to be paid in 60 days or as agreed upon by both parties.

In Guardian’s offer to purchase, one of the conditions was to make monthly lease to purchase payments of $6,500 until March 31, 2012 at which time the remainder of the money owing would be paid.

In Lakeside’s offer lease to purchase payments of $6,000 per month were to be made until March 31, 2013 at which time the remaining balance would be paid.

Anglin pointed out that if Alberta Health Services could change the rules regarding ambulances within a year and any money owing on the ambulance service could be jeopardy.

“This offer is a bird in the hand. We can make a good recommendation to Alberta Health Services, but the province dictates the service. It all could change in one year.”

Anglin said council needed to remember that the majority of the employees would remain the same when the ambulance changed hands and Associated would be required to follow guidelines put in place by the province.

“We’re trying to micro manage something that isn’t real,” he said.

Terry Schueler, CEO for Associated Ambulance stated, in a letter, to council that the company, if successful in its bid, would continue with the basic life support cars for the balance of the current Alberta Health Services contract.

“Staff will all have the first opportunity to apply for positions with Associated Ambulance & Services (Whitecourt) LTD in Rimbey. If successful in the application process, there may be consideration given for their previous years of EMS experience in accordance to our salary grid.”

Schueler said Associated Ambulance prides itself on treating staff fairly and reasonably at all levels, which are indicated, by the number of long-term employees in its system.

Associated Ambulance has provided ALS/BLS ambulance services for rural Alberta for more than 33 years. It is the largest privately owned ambulance service in Alberta, located in 13 communities reaching from Jasper to Lac Le Biche.

One of its stations is located in Breton, a community north of Rimbey.