Emergency medical calls would still be handled should Rural/Metro Corp. file for bankruptcy, an Erie County official said Friday,
“If, God forbid, something did happen, we would help coordinate with the communities to make sure the calls were covered,” said Daniel J. Neaverth Jr., the county’s commissioner of emergency services.
“There would be something put into place to fill that void,” he said. “We still have resources even if Company X decides it is closing the doors.”
More likely, Rural/Metro Medical Services would keep operating even while its parent company reorganizes, although it is not clear how the financial woes would affect local service.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that Rural/Metro, which provides the bulk of ambulance service in the Buffalo area, is preparing for a possible bankruptcy filing.
Neaverth said Erie County is monitoring the company’s situation and would help coordinate coverage if its financial troubles interrupted ambulance service.
“We’ve got concerns,” Neaverth said, but he added, “They’re getting their house in order, however they need to, while still providing the service required by their contracts.”
The Wall Street Journal report suggests the company, which employs 10,000 people throughout the country, could avoid filing for bankruptcy protection, depending on how its financial struggles play out.
Declining revenue and a heavy debt load from a leveraged buyout two years ago have plagued the Scottsdale, Ariz., company, according to the newspaper.
The company told the Journal that its operations are continuing as normal, and it remains committed to meeting its customers’ needs.
Rural/Metro Medical Services answers about 120,000 calls per year in Western New York, including Buffalo. The Buffalo Common Council last month agreed to a six-month contract extension with Rural/Metro for ambulance service.
In addition to Buffalo, Rural/Metro provides ambulance service in Alden, Arcade, Cheektowaga, Concord, East Aurora, Evans, Hamburg, Lackawanna, Lewiston, Lockport, Niagara Falls, Town of Niagara, Springville, West Seneca and Wyoming County, according to its website.
“From an operational perspective, it is business as usual at Rural/Metro. We remain committed, as always, to providing life-saving services to our customers and communities,” a company statement said.
Rural/Metro said it recently elected not to make the interest payment due July 15 for unsecured bonds due in 2019. The company said it will continue to keep lenders informed but would not comment further.
Neaverth noted that ambulance service and companies in the area have changed over the years, and if an ambulance company closed its doors, its emergency medical technicians and paramedics likely would remain in the area.
If necessary, the county would help coordinate the former employees to make sure calls are handled, he said.
During an eight-hour strike by Rural Metro’s 400 Western New York emergency medical technicians and paramedics last month, the county activated its emergency operations center. “We were monitoring the situation and assisting wherever we could,” he said.
He said the county was in contact with other ambulance companies and volunteer fire companies, making them aware when coverage would be needed.