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Rural/ Metro: Staffing changes not related to bankruptcy

Posted on Friday, July 25, 2014 at 9:40 am

Staffing changes at Franklin County’s Rural/Metro Ambulance are not related to the Arizona-based corporation’s financial struggles but merely stem from a supply and demand issue where personnel are being placed where they will be most effective, according to the company’s directors.

Recent Facebook social media postings indicated that Rura/Metro was reducing its staff and several employees were gone, including Nita Jernigan, Rural/Metro market general manager.

However, John Karolzak, chief relations officer, and Bryant Howard, general manager, said this past week that the corporation has assessed its staffi ng needs, and there’s less demand in the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift.

Howard said the bottom line is the demand was low enough that several emergency response employees were receiving more overtime work than was required to efficiently serve the public. He added that no one’s employment was terminated but some employees had left the company on their own will.

Howard said the late shift had four ambulances on call until this past weekend when the number was reduced to two active crews, plus another remaining on call.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any difference,” Howard said, referring to whether the staffing changes would be noticed in reduced service capability. “We will meet the demands of the system.”

Howard said that the changes were based on response records that have indicated normal business hours received the most calls and Rural/Metro has five to six ambulances available at times close to normal business hours when more traffic is getting to and from work.

“It’s not like we just came up with this,” Howard said adding that the staffing requirements were thoroughly assessed before any changes were considered.

He said the ambulance company has an obligation to serve the county residents and will do it.

“We will meet the needs of Franklin County,” Howard said. “We’re meeting the desires of the citizens. That’s the main thing.”

Karolzak said Rural/Metro has a presence in 31 states, and such staffing changes are routine.

“We made some staffing changes because we were overstaffed,” he said, adding that it was a supply and demand issue, and the supply of ambulances on the night shift has been way greater than the demand.

Although concern has been expressed about the changes, Franklin County Mayor Richard Stewart described the circumstances as “trial and error.”

“It’s one of those situations where I don’t know either way what could happen,” he said, adding that if problems related to the staffing changes occur, the County Commission will probably do something about it.

Rural/Metro’s operational status came into question when the corporation filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 2013, and eight employees left the company to find other jobs.

Rural/Metro began its operations in Franklin County in 1996 and its services as the 911 operations first responder were approved in 2009.

In addition to being Franklin County’s contracted ambulance service provider, Rural/Metro has service agreements with other area cities, including Decherd.

Rural/Metro had previously said it was optimistic the company would recover from its financial predicament and continue with regular ambulance service while continuing to cut debt and reorganize under a bankruptcy court’s supervision.

Karolzak said in April that Rural/Metro has taken the necessary steps to restructure its financing and has been doing well since it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings as a reorganized company at the end of 2013.

“We’re meeting all our contract obligations, and things have gone really well during the past three months,” he had said. “We’re looking for a bright future.”

Karolzak had said the financial restructuring has left Rural/Metro with the headroom to grow and thrive.

“We’re very excited about the future,” he said.

Rural/Metro’s Plan of Reorganization was confirmed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware on Dec. 17, 2013, the company said in a published statement.

Rural/Metro said it has met all conditions of the plan, and through its financial restructuring, has reduced its debt by about 50 percent.

Karolzak said that, in addition, the company’s bondholders are providing Rural/ Metro with funding totaling $135 million to help position it for new growth.

Scott A. Bartos, Rural/ Metro president and chief executive officer, summed up his thoughts on the company’s standing.

“As a stronger and more competitive company, we will continue to invest in infrastructure and technology and advance our commitment to providing state-of-the-art medical transportation and fire services,” he said. “I want to thank the Rural/Metro employees whose tireless efforts have been instrumental to our successful restructuring.

“I am excited to begin 2014 as the new and improved Rural/ Metro.”