Unicoi County negotiating new contract with MedicOne, preparing for new request for proposals

Sue Guinn Legg • Dec 14, 2018 at 9:59 PM

ERWIN — Unicoi County officials are negotiating a new three-year contract with MedicOne Medical Services, the company that has spent much of the past three years out of compliance with its current contract with county.

The County Commission’s Ambulance Committee voted Friday to continue the negotiations with MedicOne owner Dan Reeves over the weekend in hopes of having a contract agreement to present for the full commission’s consideration Monday.

Short of an agreement or in the event the full commission rejects a new contract with MedicOne, the committee instructed County Attorney Doug Shults to be ready to submit a new request for contract proposals as soon as possible.

With the county’s current contract with MedicOne set to expire in April, the commission is facing a short deadline to secure a new provider.

“We’re running out of time,” Commissioner Marie Rice said Friday.

Despite a consensus on the need to act quickly, Reeve’s contention that there is no time left to secure another provider was contradicted by several of the committee members.

Commission Chairman Loren Thomas said most providers are ready to submit bids with little to no turnaround time.

“It’s what they do,” Thomas said.

Committee members also noted MedicOne began operations in the county within a very short time after the award of its first contract here in 2011.

MedicOne has been the only bidder on the county’s past two requests for proposals and most of Friday’s committee discussion was spent on Reeves’ request for changes in the current contract proposal.

Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely told the committee he emailed a draft of the contract to Reeves on Dec. 5 and left phone messages requesting his response Dec. 5 and 6. Reeves returned Evely’s calls on Thursday, one day prior to Friday’s committee meeting, requesting changes in the contract and then emailed the requests to Evely less than two hours prior to the meeting.

The requests include:

• Removal of a $2 million liability insurance umbrella included in MedicOne’s current contract.

• Reformatting of the number, age and total mileage of ambulances required by the contract.

• Reduction of hours of service the ambulances must be available.

• A 5 percent allowance on performance penalties for noncompliance with the contract provisions caused by “acts of God” or staff absences.

• A half-mile extension of the minimum distance requirement for an ambulance station’s proximity to Interstate 26.

After a discussion of each request, the committee recommended:

• Rejection of removal of the $2 million in liability insurance umbrella and inclusion of specific liability insurance language set out in the last request for proposals.

• Accept Reeves’ offer to add one new ambulance in April and another in April 2020 in order to meet a requirement for three ambulances under 5 years in age and 250,000 mileage within one year, and to specify a requirement for “Type 1” ambulances capable of transporting two patients at the same time.

• Make no changes in mandatory hours of ambulance availability, penalties for contract violations or location of the ambulance station.

• Require a daily reporting of on the number of ambulances available and calls responded to.

• Request Reeves’ response to the contract changes prior to Monday night’s full commission meeting.

While several committee members expressed concern with Reeves’ failure to respond in a timely manner to the county’s request for communication, Thomas said he felt confident Reeves will respond to contract revisions by Monday.

Asked if the new request for proposals was ready to submit for advertisement, County Attorney Doug Shults said the request could be ready within a day.