WARREN — A city ambulance provider believes it may have lost out on more than $1 million for contracted work it claims was diverted to other, non-contracted providers and is now suing the city and Trumbull County for redress.
MedStar Emergency Medical Services and Transport Inc. of Warren on Sept. 16 filed claims of breach of contract and contract interference in a Common Pleas Court suit against the city, which maintained exclusive contracts with MedStar for emergency ambulance and medical services that spanned most of 2015 to 2017 as well as the past two years, and Trumbull County, which operates the 911 center that dispatches those ambulances.
The suit contends though MedStar held exclusive contracts for EMS calls, Warren and Trumbull officials unlawfully diverted thousands of those calls to providers that weren’t contracted by the city, according to a Tuesday evening release.
Scott Pullins, attorney and spokesperson for MedStar, told Mahoning Matters Tuesday it’s estimated the company’s lost at least $1 million in services revenue, as it’s only been receiving about a fifth of the 911 calls it should be.
“That tells us right there that something’s wrong,” he said.
City Law Director Enzo Cantalamessa was the city’s safety director when Pullins brought the issue to the county’s attention in spring 2018 and threatened to sue, according to the Tribune Chronicle. As the city’s legal representative, court records show Cantalamessa yet to receive service on the case.
Cantalamessa was not available for comment Tuesday.
Under MedStar’s contracts, 911 operators could dispatch another provider only if MedStar was unavailable or didn’t offer the requested service, Pullins said. The suit, however, claims Trumbull County’s dispatch center does not track which providers are called and is either “randomly” assigning calls or “intentionally diverting them from MedStar.”
Warren’s current safety director, Eddie Colbert, told MedStar both the city and county knew about the exclusivity provision in the contract, according to the suit.
Marc Dann, one of two Cleveland-area attorneys representing MedStar, said it’s unclear whether the diversions were intentional — and, if so, he wonders why.
“Clearly, these are emergency situations. If the contracted provider, MedStar, was not available then diverting to other providers obviously makes some sense,” he said. “It’s not possible that happened 80 percent of the time. … We look forward to trying to get to the bottom of it and getting it remedied.”
Under MedStar’s agreements with the City of Warren, the EMS provider was also required to provide professional, comprehensive and automobile liability insurance — which included the city as an additional insured party — as well as workers compensation coverage. MedStar was also required to maintain records and report its response time — something that’s not required of the other providers, according to the release.
Pullins said MedStar tried to resolve the issue through meetings with city and county officials, but nothing ever changed.
“They know what the problem is and they’ve been dodging what would be a fair resolution for some time now,” he said.
MedStar’s most recent contract with the city expired Aug. 31. The company tried to renew the contract, but was denied, Pullins said. He said he could not speak as to why.
“MedStar worked diligently with city and county agencies for over two years to avoid this litigation,” Pullins is quoted in the release. “It’s a real puzzle as to why these local officials still refuse to honor the contracts so that MedStar may provide top-notch emergency services to area residents."