Owensboro and Daviess County's newest emergency medical transport provider is now in operation, and city officials say the transition couldn't have gone any better.
American Medical Response Inc. (AMR), doing business as Mercy Ambulance of Lexington, was awarded the joint, city-county ambulance contract in May, so the company had just two months to get their service in place.
At 7 p.m. sharp on June 30, ambulance services in Daviess County switched from Yellow Ambulance, a Louisville-based Procarent company, to AMR. Just moments later, a heavy storm rocked the region, but the new company handled the hurdle with ease, according to Owensboro Fire Department Chief Steve Mitchell.
"There wasn't even a hiccup," Mitchell said this week. "Everything went great and they were able to do very well. At 7 o'clock, I guarantee you nobody in public knew what happened."
It's been a hectic six months for local government officials after Procarent informed them shortly after the new year that they would abandon their relatively new contract on July 1. Leaders scrambled to find a suitable replacement, even engaging Owensboro Health in a conversation about its former commitments to provide emergency services, but the contract was ultimately awarded to AMR.
Mitchell, who helped oversee the AMR transition, applauded the company for its willingness to take the service largely the way Yellow had left it. Not only did the new provider buy almost all of its Owensboro assets, but it hired almost all of its former employees.
That was a big relief for more than 50 highly skilled local people who could have faced unemployment.
"I can just imagine what they went through from Jan. 1 until we had the new agreement in May," Mitchell said. "We immediately set meetings up (with them) and I think, for a majority of those people, you could see the stress level when they walked in the door and you could see the relief on their faces when they walked out the door."
One of those employees was Yellow's on-site Manager Jamie Hardin, who was hired as the Owensboro operations manager for AMR as well. Hardin said it's been a mental challenge to train himself and all the employees on a new computer system and recording equipment, but that's a minor bump in the road in what could have been a very bad situation.
"The day-to-day stuff here is all pretty much the same," Hardin said. "We're lucky for that. Different companies do things differently, so we're learning the new computer systems, but everything's going fine. It's sort of business-as-usual."
That's precisely what officials wanted.
Austin Ramsey, 270-691-7302, email@example.com, Twitter: @austinrramsey