Pflugerville officials continue negotiations on contract for private ambulance services

Rusty Wood, director of operations for Acadian Ambulance Services, LLC, addressed Pflugerville City Council Oct. 26. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Rusty Wood, director of operations for Acadian Ambulance Services, LLC, addressed Pflugerville City Council Oct. 26. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)

Rusty Wood, director of operations for Acadian Ambulance Services, LLC, addressed Pflugerville City Council Oct. 26. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)

Pflugerville officials have decided to continue negotiating a contract with Acadian Ambulance Services of Texas LLC, a private emergency services company founded in Louisiana.

The move came during an Oct. 26 City Council meeting.

On Oct. 12, council approved a motion to begin negotiations with Acadian toward a probable contract outlining services would begin Jan. 1, 2022 and containing a base term of two years with an option of up to three subsequent years.

Acadian operates primarily in Louisiana and Texas, including Bastrop, Live Oak and Bexar counties.

A document from Acadian states the company would begin services in Pflugerville with at least four ambulance units that will be placed at areas of highest use.

Additionally, Acadian documents state the company will be able to respond to calls within eight minutes for calls within city limits and 10 minutes within the ETJ.

The actions from council not only serve to continue negotiations with Acadian, they also continue a dispute between the city of Pflugerville and Travis County ESD Nos. 2 and 17.

The crux of the dispute centers on ESD 2 officials citing a need for an annual subsidy from the city of Pflugerville of about $2.8 million to continue providing the area with EMS and advanced life services.

It remains unclear what will happen should residents vote to annex Pflugerville and its extraterritorial jurisdiction into Travis County Emergency Services District No. 17 as part of election slated for Nov. 2.

However, Pflugerville Fire Department Chief Nick Perkins said should voters approve the annexation, there will be an obvious contradiction created by a legally decided mandate from voters coming in conflict with a local ordinance to contract with a private company.

"So, I think there would need to be some meetings that would need to occur to get to the bottom of that," Perkins said Oct 26. "Anything that I would say that the city would be doing or thinking would be pure speculation, but I am aware that they have engaged in litigious behavior."

Pflugerville officials filed a lawsuit to block the election and ratified the decision during a special meeting Aug. 18, but a district court judge dismissed the suit one month later.

Perkins spoke during public comment Oct. 26, and stated he is against a related ordinance City Council passed last month to install a franchise requirement for emergency services.

He also stated for-profit models promise certain response times, but their business model is based on promising times they cannot deliver. The consequences of that, he said, is they have to pay a fine to the city.

"Just look at what's going on right now. We have five ambulances serving the area," he said. "[Acadian is] going to somehow do four with less resources ... so, how can you do better with less?"

Perkins said his department meets county requirements for response times, and it is unrealistic for any company or emergency services system to promise 8-minute response times in Pflugerville with a crew of four ambulances. Meeting an 8-minute response time in Pflugerville would require a six-ambulance team, he said.

Additionally, Perkins said for-profit emergency services models have significantly more aggressive tax collection policies, especially when compared with hybrid ESD, voter-approved systems that rely on billing as well as tax revenue.

Pflugerville officials have based much of their decision-making in recent months on a report they commissioned with AP Triton, a consulting firm specializing in service delivery methodology and practices for fire and emergency care services.

On June 21, Rich Buchanan from Triton AP said the study found ESD No. 2 does not need an annual payout of $2.793 million that it has requested from the city, though Perkins and ESD 2 commissioners maintain claims in the report are at least somewhat inaccurate.

Also present Oct. 26 were representatives from another private ambulance service called Allegiance Mobile Health, which bid six ambulance units during the city's request for proposals process.

Like Perkins, Amanda Baum, regional vice president for Allegiance representative on Oct. 26 told council it would require six ambulance units to meet an 8-minute response time in Pflugerville.

"If you put four or five [ambulances in service] now, you're going to need more very quickly because of the growth Pflugerville has," Baum said.

Asked to justify their claim that they could meet the 8-minute response time with four ambulances, Rusty Wood, director of operations for Acadian, told council his company covers Bastrop County, which is larger than 800 square miles, with five ambulance units. Pflugerville and its ETJ comprise about 65 square miles, he said.

He added that if a need arises for more ambulances in the Pflugerville service area, Acadian would provide them.

Wood also said he could not guarantee bills his company sends out would not eventually go to collections if a patient could not pay for services, but that does not happen often.
By Brian Rash
Brian has been a reporter and editor since 2012. He wrote about the music scene in Dallas-Fort Worth before becoming managing editor for the Graham Leader in Graham, Texas, in 2013. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 to work for Gatehouse Media's large design hub. He became the editor for the Lake Travis-Westlake publication of Community Impact in August 2018. From there he became a dual-market editor for Community Impact's New Braunfels and San Marcos-Buda-Kyle editions. Brian is now a senior editor for the company's flagship papers, the Round Rock and Pflugerville-Hutto editions.


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