TransCare’s motto was ‘the driving force in health care,’ but it’s not driving anymore.
When the contract ambulance service abruptly ceased operations recently many people expressed concern that 911 response time in the Bronx would increase.
Montefiore Medical Center, the borough’s largest healthcare provider, had a contract with TransCare to run its ambulances, as did St. Barnabas Hospital.
TransCare ambulances carried the hospitals’ names, logos and colors, said Kenneth Kearns, CB 10 district manager, who said his board is preparing a letter to public officials on the subject.
Seven Montefiore ambulances were lost when TransCare shut down, with even more loses at St. Barnabas.
FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer, stated that the number of ambulances that the city is now staffing daily are 81 tours, or 27 ambulances running three shifts a day, though he said a small portion of these tours may include northern Manhattan tours.
The FDNY is covering every TransCare tour, stated Dwyer, who confirmed that the loss of ambulances only effected private hospitals.
“FDNY planned for the closure of TransCare for weeks and seamlessly filled the tours lost,” stated Dwyer, adding “FDNY…is working on several pilot programs geared towards reducing response times specifically in the Bronx.”
Dwyer said these programs are not related to the TransCare situation.
Montefiore, which had a 16-year relationship with TransCare, was aware of its financial difficulties for about a year, said Dr. Peter Semczuk, Montefiore vice-president.
“It became apparent when they missed a payroll one week, then failed to pay Workermen’s Compensation,” said Dr. Semczuk.
He said the hospital enacted proactive measures and developed a contingency plan.
At one point, Transcare was handling the Montefiore’s discharge ambulances as well as 911 calls, he said.
As the company’s financial problems devolved, Montefiore stopped using TransCare for any discharge work, he said.
“This was a prudent thing to do,” said Dr. Semczuk, “Many hospitals were scrambling to fill that void when Transcare shut down.”
For now, FDNY has picked up the slack and has devoted the same amount of ambulances to Montefiore, but Dr. Semczuk said this is not a permanent solution.
At one time TransCare was handling 20 percent of 911 calls in the borough, so the workload to recover is huge, he said
A St. Barnabas spokesman stated that the hospital had made a seamless transition to SeniorCare EMS and that its patients weren’t affected.
Kearns said his board is going to continue to look into the issue.
“The hospital companies are allegedly trying to… scramble to find replacement ambulance companies,” said Kearns. “EMS is taking up the slack, and as a result their response times are a little slower because demand is so much higher.”
To cover borough demand, ambulances had to be shifted from other boroughs, said Kearns.
An official at another Bronx hospital that did not use TransCare, and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that some Bronx hospitals did not use the company because they felt it was unreliable.
Al D’Angelo, a Morris Park community leader who serves on a community advisory board at two hospitals, said when he first learned of the TransCare issue that it seemed like it would probably impact 911 service in some way.
“Obviously, the less ambulances we have, the greater the response time and the more danger there is to the community,” he said.