Friday is the last day American Ambulance trucks will be seen on Catoosa streets.
The company told the city four days ago that it would no longer serve residents. The ambulance director says the company had no choice. "We couldn't afford to stay here for the subsidy that the city was paying,â€ said American director Levi Thetford. â€œAnd then with the Medicare cutbacks, it just no longer became feasible." Thetford says as of October 1st, Medicare stopped paying for non-emergency calls. American couldn't collect on many of the calls it answered.
With the ambulance service gone, volunteer firefighters will have to do double duty. Currently, firefighters say they run about half the calls. Now they will be first responders on every call. Shellie Benton's husband is the assistant fire chief. She says it's going to be hard on her family personally and financially when her husband has to work twice as hard for free. "He has to take time away from his business to run those calls,â€ said Benton. â€œAnd a lot of guys around here take off from their jobs. They take time off to run a call in the middle of the day or even at night," she added.
The Claremore ambulance service will be the primary responder to 9-1-1 calls in Catoosa until the city hires another company. Tulsa's EMSA will also help. Catoosa's mayor wasn't available for comment, but the Claremore service says Catoosa hasn't told them how long it will be before they hire another company.
Residents say they're worried about response time. "I worry a lot,â€ said Catoosa resident Ruth Richardson. â€œI've got a lot of grandkids participating in sports and if something happened, how quick could they get there to take care of them?"
American says its response time inside the Catoosa city limits was about six minutes. Outside the city limits, it took the ambulance about 10 to 12 minutes to respond. Claremore's service and EMSA both say it will take about 10 to 12 minutes to respond to each call. On the average, there won't be a lot of difference in response time.
American Ambulance will officially stop service in Catoosa at 7:00 AM Saturday.