By Mark Belling, WISN-AM
Paratech Ambulance, in direct violation of its contract, is refusing to respond to the majority of calls it is receiving in Milwaukee for paramedic service under the 911 system.
As I reported exclusively last week, Paratech, which was sold recently, has given Milwaukee notice that it intends to terminate its contract in six months. But I have now been able to confirm that Paratech is already bailing out of Milwaukee by simply refusing to honor the majority of requests it receives for service.
According to records provided by Acting Milwaukee Fire Chief Aaron Lipski, Paratech refused to respond to 1495 of the 2097 calls it has been assigned since March 14. Lipski says Paratech’s refusal puts it in violation of its contract with the city. That’s roughly 70 percent.
Three private ambulance companies, Bell, Curtis and Paratech, contract with the city for ambulance service. When a 911 call is received, the Milwaukee Fire Department responds. When the medical call is considered to be non-emergency, one of the three private companies is then dispatched to transport the individual to a hospital. Patients in more severe situations are transferred by the Fire Department paramedics. Milwaukee is broken up into three regions and each of the private companies handles calls for its region. When one of the companies says it can’t respond, one of the other companies takes the call.
The other two companies also refuse calls but nowhere near the rate at which Paratech is refusing service. Curtis delined 310 of its 1605 calls in the same time period. Bell has responded to virtually all of its calls, rejecting only 11 of 2222 calls. The usual reason for declining a call is that all units are responding to other calls but that doesn’t seem to be the problem with Paratech. City sources tell me that Paratech is having financial woes and has been unwilling to accept Milwaukee calls because most residents of the city are covered by Medicaid. Medicaid reimbursement for ambulance calls is much lower than the rate paid by private insurance or Medicare. All of the ambulance companies have been complaining about the problem. Paratech is the only one seeking to get out of its contract and, according to the numbers, is right now simply refusing to respond to most calls.
Milwaukee Alderman Michael Murphy, the longest serving member of the Common Council, tells me the situation is getting perilous. Individuals calling Milwaukee Police for 911 service have often waited hours. The same situation may be developing with ambulance calls. To be clear, individuals with life threatening conditions are not at risk here as those calls are all handled by the Fire Department itself.
Paratech official have consistently refused to respond to my questions. Paratech, which has been in business since 1973 and serves many cities, was sold to a company called Midwest Medical. The problems seem to have started after that sale.