By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Note: This article is the second in a three-part series on the announced merger of Atmore Ambulance Service and ASAP EMS-Ambulance and how the merger should improve response times in medical emergencies.
Details of a reported merger between ASAP-EMS Ambulance and Atmore Ambulance Service have still not been forthcoming, but an employee of a Mobile law firm indicted this week that one of the stumbling blocks to such a merger has been removed.
A mortgage foreclosure sale of Atmore Ambulance Service Inc.’s North Main Street headquarters — scheduled for last Friday, January 28, on the county courthouse steps — was called off when a third party apparently intervened.
“The sale did not take place; it was canceled,” said an employee of the Speegle, Hoffman, Holman and Holifield law firm, who asked that her name not be published. “I can’t say that (the debt) was settled, but I can say that we are not going through with the foreclosure.”
ASAP’s ambulances have been operating out of the Atmore Ambulance building for several weeks. The company’s former local headquarters — just off Lindbergh Avenue, in the strip mall with Advance America and Chen’s Buffet — has remained dark for weeks, although “ambulance parking” signs are still there.
Numerous requests for information on the business transaction have been made to officials at ASAP’s Laurel, Miss. corporate headquarters, but no reply had been received by Tuesday’s press deadline.
Likewise, Karen Jay, who with her husband Frank is a principal officer of Atmore Ambulance, had not responded to a voice message asking for details on the “joining forces” of the two private ambulance companies.
Meanwhile, the city’s top public safety officials, still not sure just what type of business relationship now exists between the companies, say a new protocol implemented by management of the united company is already starting to pay off.
“Things have definitely gotten better since the merger, or whatever it is,” said Fire Chief Ron Peebles, whose agency is responsible for responding to all medical calls that involve cardiac events and vehicle entrapment, but not routine calls.
Peebles said there were numerous incidents prior to the two services joining forces when AFD personnel were dispatched because ambulances from each company were either tied up elsewhere, couldn’t be reached or simply were not in service. Response times of 20-30 minutes were not uncommon, he said.
“The problem before was that we had to go because there was no ambulance available,” he said. “Now we just go to help them. Since the merger, we haven’t had a medical call where there wasn’t an ambulance.”
Prior to implementation of the new response plan, when ASAP ambulances were needed, local 911 dispatchers had to call the company’s dispatch center, also in Mississippi. The unit would be dispatched from there, and local dispatchers had no communications with ASAP personnel during the incident.
Chuck Brooks, the city’s lead public safety official as police chief, said the major problems local emergency dispatchers had encountered have apparently been eliminated.
“I haven’t heard of any real conflict since the merger,” Brooks said. “Nothing has been brought to my attention.”
Betty Cox, dispatch supervisor for APD, agreed the situation has improved, making things a little easier for the individuals responsible for dispatching emergency services.
“So far it is,” she said. “We’ll see if it continues.”
Peebles said city firefighters will continue to assist ambulance crews with lifting heavier patients and will remain prepared to handle whatever calls come in.
“We’re supposed to be called whenever any type of cardiac incident is involved or when somebody is trapped in a vehicle, but we’re not supposed to be the primary medical responder,” he said. “Where we were having to do that on a regular basis, we’re not having to do that anymore. But we’re still going to do whatever we have to do, no matter what it is. If we get a call, we go.”