New EMS provider, auditing questions, funding issues: Harris County ESD No. 11, Cypress Creek EMS continue rocky relationship

Cypress Creek EMS and Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 met during the district's regular meeting Dec. 17. (Courtesy Cypress Creek EMS)
Cypress Creek EMS and Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 met during the district's regular meeting Dec. 17. (Courtesy Cypress Creek EMS)

Cypress Creek EMS and Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 met during the district's regular meeting Dec. 17. (Courtesy Cypress Creek EMS)

Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 and Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services made several major decisions at the district’s Dec. 17 meeting. From officially stating the district’s intention to form its own EMS provider to agreeing to fully fund CCEMS to a deeply concerning accounting presentation, the meeting brought new tension to the relationship between the two entities.



ESD President Karen Plummer said the district has been considering what kind of service it will have after the 360-day end-of-contract period between the district and CCEMS expires for several months. The commissioners voted unanimously to self-operate as an EMS provider.



ESD Vice President Steven Williams assured CCEMS employees present that they will receive the first right of refusal for any jobs created by the new service.



“Are we going to have some challenges? Sure, absolutely,” Williams said. “But we can do it.”



The commissioners also voted to pay CCEMS’ fully monthly payment, ending its monthslong tactic of withholding 30% of funds for financial audits or insurance claims. ESD Commissioner Kevin Brost said the return to full funding was made with the understanding CCEMS would continue providing service to the area as well as complying with further financial review.



“The information we got from our report is very disturbing,” Brost said. “But we want you to continue running our calls at the level of service you’re running that calls at right now.”



The report the district heard was from PKF Texas, an accounting services firm, and presented five takeaways from a more than 100-page full report, which was not released.



PFK Texas Director Danielle Shukis Cheek presented evidence of employees being coded as under different departments on payroll, unequal payroll allocations from ESD No. 11, inefficiencies in CCEMS’ operations when compared to competitors, billing anomalies such as overpayments and overrefunds, and about $10 million in unaccounted funds.



“If [CCEMS’ finances] means what she deciphered it to mean, it’s really ugly,” Plummer said. “We’re hoping it's not really ugly, but it’s looking really ugly.”



CCEMS CEO Wren Nealy said CCEMS would comply with the district and its auditor.

By Andy Li
Originally from Boone, North Carolina, Andy Li is a graduate of East Carolina University with degrees in Communication with a concentration in Journalism and Political Science. While in school, he worked as a performing arts reporter, news, arts and copy editor and a columnist at the campus newspaper, The East Carolinian. He also had the privilege to work with NPR’s Next Generation Radio, a project for student journalists exploring radio news. Moving to Houston in May 2019, he now works as the reporter for the Conroe/Montgomery edition of Community Impact Newspaper.


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