Go inside Acadian’s decision to pull 911 services in Port Arthur and the city’s response to those concerns

Published 12:18 am Friday, February 2, 2024

Acadian Ambulance Services opted to discontinue services in Port Arthur less than two months after company officials signed their latest contract.

Representatives of the Louisiana-headquartered Acadian Ambulance made the announcement Thursday morning of their intent to cease 911 operations in Port Arthur, citing a number of reasons, mainly that a multi-provider system was not viable for Acadian.

Not long after the announcement city leaders issued a statement assuring the Port Arthur community there would be no lapse or interruption of ambulance services, adding Acadian would cease services March 2.

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Acadian, City of Port Arthur

According to the statement from Acadian, the company, after trying to work with city officials on the implementation of a multi-provider system for the past two months, decided the multi-provider system was not viable.

“We had hoped that the multi-provider EMS system the City recently implemented would be a viable one. While not the ideal service model, we were hopeful we could have professional and productive conversations with the City as we moved forward to implement the multi-agency EMS system they decided upon. A fair and equitable system has not been established. There has been a lack of communication from the City regarding the rotation and operational plan for both services. Over the past two months, our repeated requests for meetings to review those important plans have mostly gone unanswered,” Acadian Ambulance President Justin Back said.

Acadian believes the best model for 911 operations is by using a sole-provider system, saying it allows for the servicing agency to invest the high cost in equipment and personnel needed to provide the services and it allows the granting body to hold a sole provider accountable for services in the licensed geography.

“We strongly believe in competition, but also believe that the competition should be conducted during a rigorous RFP (request for proposals), not on the streets of Port Arthur. Should the City decide in the future to issue an RFP for a sole provider model, we would welcome an opportunity to submit a proposal for 911 services in Port Arthur,” Back added.

In response to Acadian’s comments about the lack of communication with the city and that a fair and equitable system had not been established, Port Arthur City Manager Ron Burton said the city developed a system based on the procurement requirement set forth by the state.

The system, he said, is fair and balanced.

“We have no intention of developing a procurement system that is not fair and balanced because our first priority is to the citizens of Port Arthur,” Burton said. “As far as providing ambulance services, we want to make sure no citizen is left behind.”

Burton also disagrees with Acadian’s comments that their requests to review important plans had gone mostly unanswered.

He said the city council and administration did everything to make sure this was a level and equitable playing field and will continue to offer a fair and equitable playing field, “because we are operating in a free market with the opportunity for competition.”

Port Arthur’s next regularly scheduled city council meeting is 5:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at city hall. Burton said the council will have the opportunity to discuss the ambulance service issue.

History

Acadian operated in the city for 17 years and was the sole 911 provider for the past 13 years, but last year city leaders opted to bring in a second ambulance service.

This came after the fire department’s medical group met and made recommendations for improving emergency services. In June, Acadian and City Ambulance Service made proposals to the City Council, and then a Nov. 10 deadline came and went without Acadian signing a new contract; their representatives saying they needed clarification on some items.

The current contract was signed Dec. 4 and is valid through Nov. 30, 2024.

Tension

Tensions flared at an early January Port Arthur City Council meeting in which Fire Chief Greg Benson informed council of accountability issues with Acadian.

Benson said in the time frame from Nov. 19 to Dec. 19, Acadian Ambulance Service had zero units available for the residents of Port Arthur.

For the same time period City Ambulance was at “Level Zero” four times.

In addition, Acadian does not have any ambulance units dedicated to Port Arthur and they were not a permitted 911 provider for the month of November.

Acadian representatives Jay Lewis, Eric Thibodeaux and Jason Mercer addressed city leaders at the January meeting, saying they planned on providing the data for September and October but had an error in tabulation and some of the previously reported data was incorrect.

Level Zero occurs when there is no ambulance immediately available.

Councilman Thomas Kinlaw III said at the January meeting that council opted to go with two ambulance services because they thought it was in the best interest of the city. He also stated he did not believe all of the self-reporting information he received from Acadian.

City Ambulance, a Texas based company, came on duty to serve the City of Port Arthur in November and continues to provide service to the city.