Board debates new medical transport franchises

Published 1:17 pm Monday, December 14, 2015

Beaufort County commissioners are asking whether the county can support another non-emergency medical transport business.

At the Dec. 7 regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners, commissioners heard the first of two required readings for the ambulance franchise application of Priority Care, a medical transport company out of Bertie County. Commissioners approved the first reading but not without discussion as to whether the county actually needs additional service. One of the requirements of the application is a company must prove the need exists.

There are at least six different non-emergency transport companies providing point-to-point service within the county, according to Beaufort County EMS Director John Flemming. He told commissioners he believed it would be difficult for a new business to get traction. Non-emergency medical ambulances make about 6,000 transports a year in Beaufort County, which equates to $1 million to $1.5 million in earnings split between the companies operating here, he said.

“You’re slicing that piece of pie even thinner,” Flemming said.

However, Flemming said more private transport companies could increase competition, thus bring an increased level of service to residents who use them.

That’s what Derrick Bonds, a partner in Priority Care, told commissioners, as well. Bonds said his mother, who worked in EMS for 30 years, and his partner, a former firefighter, started Priority Care in 2006.

“It gives the citizens of the county the opportunity to choose,” Bonds said. “We’re not here to take anyone’s business.”

Commissioner Hood Richardson questioned whether the company had fulfilled the requirements of the application, in that Priority Care had provided an estimated financial statement for a future Beaufort County franchise, as opposed to a current financial statement. He also asked Flemming to institute a full criminal background check on the owners of Priority Care, but in an effort to not single the company out, agreed to a retroactive background check on all private transport company owners operating in the county.

Commissioners voted 7-0 to approve the first reading of the franchise agreement; a second approval is contingent on the background check and receipt of a financial statement. They also asked Flemming to create a full report on the number of companies and units operating in Beaufort County, as well as whether they are based inside or outside the county.