Mid County cities taking long look at ambulance service during moratorium

Published 12:20 am Saturday, February 24, 2024

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Much has changed in the landscape of healthcare in our own backyard.

Back in 1996, there were multiple hospitals in the area; St. Mary and Park Place hospitals in Port Arthur, Doctors Hospital in Groves and Mid-Jefferson Hospital in Nederland.

At the time, the three Mid County cities — Nederland, Groves and Port Neches — crafted pretty much matching ordinances to handle emergency medical ambulance services.

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The ordinances were each updated in 2004, almost 20 years ago.

Through the years from 2004 to now several of the hospitals closed their doors, leaving just The Medical Center of Southeast Texas in Port Arthur as the closest hospital. Freestanding emergency rooms now dot FM 365, which straddles Port Arthur and Nederland and is a major thoroughfare.

“Because of these factors, we believe we need to revisit the ordinances and determine if any modifications need to be made,” Port Neches City Manager Andre Wimer said recently. “The landscape has changed in terms of hospital facilities and warrants a review.”

Leaders with the three cities often collaborate as a cost savings venture; even their emergency call center handles the three cities, which are neighbors.

Wimer said the three cities are reviewing the ordinance collectively.

In the meantime the cities have each approved a temporary ambulance service application moratorium. Currently, Mid County is served by Acadian Ambulance only.

Nederland City Manager Chris Duque said the fire chiefs of the cities would do the initial review.

“We want to review the whole ordinance, look at everything. So much has changed; the EMS ambulance market has changed,” Duque said. “In 20 years, the hospital and providers have drastically changed in Mid County.”

Duque said they need to look at the entire ordinance and possibly look at ordinances of similar cities as well.

There are other factors that likely need to be factored in. Duque noted the dramatic changes that came with COVID, in which new safety protocols were put in place. The current ordinance was put in place decades before the pandemic.

Louisiana-headquartered Acadian Ambulance has served the area for many years and recently pulled out as a 911 provider in Port Arthur due to contractual disagreements and city’s wish to have more than one 911 ambulance service.

Leaders with the Mid County cities are aware of the Port Arthur/Acadian issue.

Duque said he met with Acadian representatives a day or so after the announcement of leaving Pot Arthur.

“We received confirmation they are remaining in this area and will continue to provide services,” Duque said.

Groves City Manager Kevin Carruth said the change in the healthcare landscape combined with the issues with Acadian and Port Arthur highlight the need to take a look at the ordinances.

Carruth said a moratorium of ambulance service applications runs through the end of the year, giving officials a chance to take their time.

“We don’t have an immediate issue,” Carruth said. “We want to be proactive rather than reactive and do this as a moratorium. This allows us to take time to do this intentionally and with forethought.”

Duque said services with Acadian are not changing as leaders review the ordinances.