County EMS Contract challenge goes to the courts

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Restraining Order being sought

By Stan Welch
The challenge by several rescue squads and emergency service providers moved to the courts this week, as those providers sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent a single provider system from being implemented.
In June, the Anderson County Council awarded Priority the contract to be the sole provider of emergency medical services. Priority is a majority shareholder in Medshore, a private ambulance service founded and owned by county coroner Greg Shore, and the entity that will effectively perform the services required by the contract.. That decision to award the contract to Priority was both controversial and contested. Several rescue squads challenged the decision based on several grounds. Among those grounds was that Shore, as a county coroner, had a conflict of interest, as did the county.
The basis for the challenge was that the request for proposals (RFP) specified a proposal to provide advanced life support services, and that the Priority response called for providing basic services; a much cheaper proposition due to the equipment and level of trained personnel required. Also challenged was the proposal by Priority to use quick response vehicles(QRVs)as the first response to the call for service. QRVs are essentially SUVs with some basic equipment and manned by a paramedic. They are unable to transport patients, but the paramedic can perform some medical procedures that basic EMTs cannot. The paramedic can also administer certain medications unavailable to the EMT.
The documents filed with the court contained charges that Medshore is owned by a county employee, Greg Shore, and managed by another county employee; both of which would represent a significant conflict of interest. In addition to that complaint, the squads’ lawsuit characterizes the Medshore proposal as “non-responsive, fraudulent and contrary to the terms and requirements of the county code and the RFP.”
According to the court filings, the lawsuit was made necessary by the county’s failure to follow its own grievance/protest process. The squads actually previewed their protest by presenting it to the county prior to the vote on the contract, acknowledging that they were premature but assuring the county of their intentions. After the June vote, the protest was filed. According to the court documents, the county “summarily denied” the protest, invoking the involvement of the purchasing review panel, or PRP. That panel is comprised of three county employees who review the pertinent complaint and either approve the purchase or deny it. They are supposed to meet within ten days of the protest being filed. According to the squads, the meeting was delayed for twenty one days.
All these issues and more were raised before Judge Cordell Maddox, who heard the case in Oconee county. No judges were scheduled to hold court in Anderson County this week.
According to Belton Rescue Squad Chief Meredith Teake, Maddox focused on the question of Shore’s employment status. The outside counsel employed by the county argued that Shore was, in fact an officer of the state, per his role as coroner. Maddox asked who paid Shore. When told that the county did, Maddox commented that the county certainly sounded like his employer. Maddox did not rule immediately but said he would issue his ruling on Wednesday, September 1.