“Now that we've narrowed it down to three, we're going to start having very in-depth conversations with these three ... and move forward pretty quickly with some kind of plan of action,” said Kevin Brost, assistant treasurer and commissioner for ESD No. 11.
After releasing a Request for Qualifications, or RFQ, in late March, district commissioners received submissions from nine other emergency service providers, and in early July, the district conducted a series of interviews held in special public meetings.
“It's basically just a giant information-gathering process to see what's available, get any and all the best information we can [and] make the best decision we can to move forward in the district with finding the best emergency medicine we can for the taxpayer,” Brost said.
As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, current emergency services provider CCEMS did not submit a submission for qualifications.
“If [CCEMS] didn't respond to the RFQ, they're not being considered under the RFQ guidelines that we've set out,” Brost said. “They're still our current provider, and we're still moving forward with the process to make sure that the citizens of ESD No. 11 are getting what is needed to provide the highest-quality level of emergency medicine for the district.”
According to CCEMS President-elect Enrique Lima, CCEMS plans to provide a qualifications submission to the district outside of the RFQ.
"While serving our community so effectively for so long, we have gained proprietary information that we did not want to make public to competitors in an open RFQ process," Lima said in an email. "We want to continue to serve our neighbors and are working with ESD No. 11 to submit our proposal in a way that will not jeopardize the intellectual property we have developed that makes us so uniquely efficient and effective for the people we serve."
According to the request, the district is seeking providers who can provide 24/7 emergency response coverage for the area’s 17 ZIP codes in Cypress, Tomball, Spring and Humble—an approximate 177-square mile coverage area in North Harris County. Among other requirements, the district also required at least 90% of provider response times to be within 10 minutes.
According to CCEMS Public Information Officer Norm Uhl, 90% of the provider’s emergency calls are responded to within 10 minutes and 55 seconds. According to Uhl, CCEMS recently increased the number emergency response vehicles on the street from 14 to 17 full-time ambulances, with three on standby for peak times. Uhl said local fire departments in the area also often respond to emergency calls.
“Just because an ambulance might take 10 minutes to get there—in some cases, you might have a firetruck there in five or six minutes,” Uhl said. “We have put more ambulances on the street in recent weeks, so we anticipate our response times to improve.”
Still, Brost said emergency response times need to improve in the district.
“When [CCEMS does] get there, their field staff provides fabulous emergency medicine, but between the amount of time it takes them to get to calls and then the amount of calls that their paramedics that are on duty have to make because of the shortage of ambulances that they're providing in the district, the paramedics are worn out, and the length of time to respond to emergencies is incredibly high,” he said.
The request for qualifications and emergency medical service provider interviews come as the two entities work to solve ongoing complications in communication.
As previously reported by Community Impact, an estimated $1.5 million in asset titles was incorrectly claimed by CCEMS for equipment, such as ambulance vehicles, and ESD No. 11 has since initiated an audit to clarify any inconsistencies.
“We have instructed a forensic auditor to physically ... put their hands on all the assets of the district as well at the same time get an inventory of all of the assets Cypress Creek [to] get a very good reconciliation of our audit as well as make sure we know exactly where all of our taxpayer's assets are,” Brost said.
The audit is expected to be completed in the next 60 days, according to Brost.
"Due to the radically changing and growing health care needs in our community, particularly over the last six months, we are currently undergoing an audit of all tangible and intangible CCEMS assets," Lima said in an email. "We are confident the audit will allow us to identify any and all ways to become even better at serving our community."
Brost said a decision on the service agreement between ESD No. 11 and CCEMS will also be made in the coming 60 days.