Pawhuska's ambulance service seeks FEMA payments

Thursday, December 29th 2005, 10:34 am
By: News On 6

Pawhuska's ambulance service is in critical condition these days. The company had a contract with FEMA to send a crew down to Texas, to help with Hurricane Rita. But so far, FEMA hasn't paid them for their work.

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg says the quiet town of Pawhuska seems a long way from the chaos of Hurricane Rita, but Central Med's operations director, Joe Weaver says the hurricane has created a different kind of disaster in Pawhuska. "It's like trying to put a camel through an eye of a needle."

Weaver says when Rita hit; FEMA looked to hire numerous ambulance companies to help with the relief efforts. "They approached us." Like a lot of rural ambulance services, Central Med has been hit hard by Medicaid cutbacks. Weaver says getting the hurricane relief job seemed like a win-win for the company and the people they were helping. “It was gonna help out tremendously."

He showed the News on 6 his contract with FEMA. It spells out just about everything except for the date they're supposed to get paid. "We corresponded with them via e-mail and we were told it would be right at 30 days and we're well in excess of 60 days now." And he says after paying out of their own pockets, they can't wait. "We took $46,000 out of operating capital, when there's no cushion, there's no padding. It's something that shouldn't take this long. They'd almost be able to rebuild New Orleans in the time that it's gonna take to pay it."

He says they'll figure a way to keep the service running, but he says they won't answer any more calls for help from FEMA. "I don't think we're going to be able to respond, I really don't."