Just one month after voting to allow MedExpress Ambulance Services to operate in the city limits, at its August meeting Tuesday evening the Ville Platte City Council heard a response from Acadian Ambulance Service. The Council also hired six new patrolmen for the police department.
Paul Fuselier, who manages governmental relations for Acadian, emphasized that the long-standing ambulance service will continue to provide quality care to the residents of the city. However, he also hinted that splitting the call volume between two providers won't necessarily lead to better emergency services.
"We're not leaving Ville Platte," Fuselier told the Council, noting that Acadian first began serving the city in 1974. "We're here; we've been here; and we're going to take care of our responsibilities."
Fuselier said that Acadian employs 30 Evangeline Parish residents, including seven who live in Ville Platte, with an annual payroll of $1.5 million for those employees. These employees bring a wealth of experience to Ville Platte residents, he said.
"You have right here in Ville Platte, with just three people, more than 100 years of combined experience," Fuselier said.
Fuselier balanced Acadian's commitment to Ville Platte and Evangeline Parish with warnings that having multiple emergency medical services providers has some drawbacks.
"Just because you have multiple providers doesn't mean you'll have more ambulances deployed," Fuselier said.
Citing the economics of the EMS industry, Fuselier said that ambulance services depend on a high call volume of non-emergency calls in order to make up for the less lucrative emergency calls. The money made from the non-emergency calls help to pay for the staff and resources that are needed to provide an area with the best care possible.
Fuselier even pointed to a letter from MedExpress Chief Executive Officer Mark Majors to illustrate his point. In the letter from 2016, Majors addressed the Grant Parish Sheriff and 911 offices. At the time, MedExpress had two units operating in Grant Parish. However, Majors warned the government officials that allowing another ambulance service into the parish would mean that fewer resources from MedExpress could be assigned to the parish. The next day, Fuselier said, MedExpress did pull one of its ambulance units from the parish.
Fuselier also complained that Acadian Ambulance is held to a standard of service that MedExpress is not held to. In Acadian's contract with the Evangeline Parish Police Jury to be the sole provider for the parish, the company must respond to calls within eight minutes at least 80 percent of the time. However, MedExpress is not held to any standard in operating in the city.
"We think that it's not fair that the accountability doesn't apply to other providers," Fuselier said. "But, we're not shying away from it, and we will continue to honor it."
Mayor Jennifer Vidrine and councilmen Mike Perron and Bryant Riggs both praised the professionalism and level of service that Acadian Ambulance has provided in the past.
"Right now, we have a win-win situation," said Vidrine. "We're getting positive reports on both (providers). We are very fortunate for a city our size to have two great providers."
Riggs emphasized a free enterprise reason for allowing MedExpress into the city last month.
"Nothing against Acadian," said Riggs, "but bringing in another ambulance service is competition, which can lead to improved services for everyone."
The police department gained new patrolmen when the Council approved Chief of Police Neil Lartigue's recommendation to hire six new officers. Three of the hires – Gerald Keller, Damon Maricle, and Sam Stewart, who are all post-certified – were actually hired by Lartigue during the past month. The Council's decision Tuesday evening was to confirm their hire.
The other three hires are Taylor Frugé, Sid LaFleur, and Jacoby Briscoe. Of these three, only Frugé is post-certified. All of them will need to pass physical and psychological exams before they can be assigned to a patrol route.
The new hires brings the Ville Platte Police Department up to nine active patrolmen. There are two other patrolmen who are currently out on workman's comp. Chief Lartigue said that he plans to eventually have four officers on duty on the night shift.
The Council also hired Daniel Andrus to the fire department.
In other business, Mayor Vidrine informed the Council that the city has received two new dump trucks to help with picking up trash around town. She also noted that there are still job openings in the street department. The jobs pay $9/hours. Applicants must be able to pass a drug test and not have a felony conviction in the last seven years.