MedExpress wins appeal; Police Jury grants permit
Acadia is now a dual-ambulance service parish, or it will be as soon as all the logistics are worked out.
After a drawn out and sometimes testy discussion Tuesday night, the Acadia Parish Police Jury voted 4-3 with one abstention to grant a permit to MedExpress Ambulance Service, Inc.
For the last 45 years, Acadian Ambulance Service had the lone permit to operate here.
The jury had voted — by the exact same vote count — in February to deny the permit, but the St. Landry-based ambulance service appealed that decision.
Changing his vote from “nay” to “yea” was Rayne-area juror Jimmy Pellerin, who joined Ronnie Fabacher, Chuck Broussard and Robert Guidry Tuesday night in voting to grant the permit.
Jurors who remained opposed were Kerry Kilgore, Richard Faul and David Savoy.
Crowley Juror Peter Joseph abstained, as he did in February.
After the vote, MedExpress CEO Mark Majors said he would immediately begin the process of coordinating with the parish Emergency 911 system and deciding where to station ambulances.
Faul and Broussard were the two most vocal jurors on either side of the issue Tuesday night, sometimes arguing points across the room.
Faul contended that a vote to open up the parish up to a second service would result in fewer ambulances on call.
“Acadian will downgrade from six transports and two truck to only three transports,” he said.
But Broussard argued that the additional transports provided by MedExpress would make up for that “downgrade,” a point that was made later in the meeting in reference to another parish in which MedExpress had been granted a permit.
Michael Burney, regional vice president of Acadian, acknowledged that when MedExpress was permitted to operate in Vernon Parish, “We did reduce our unit hours .. from two transports to one and a half.”
Majors explained that, while Acadian backed off of its unit hours, “We added three units to the parish. That makes four and a half, more than double what was there before.”
But Burney countered, “The number of patients is not going to double” just because the number of ambulance services does. “At the end of the day, we still have to turn the lights on.”
Majors added later in the meeting that, should Acadian pull back on its services, “we have the reserve capacity to fill that void.”
Joining the conversation, Iota-area juror Guidry questioned the jury’s reasoning in denying the permit application in the first place.
“They met every criteria we set forth for them in our ordinance and they were denied for no reason,” he said. “They’re operating in Church Point and they have a permit (occupational license) for Crowley. They’re already here in Acadia Parish. It would be ludicrous for us to deny them the right to operate in (unincorporated areas of) the parish.”
In addressing the jury, Burney pointed out that the “overhaul” presented by Acadian in April has resulted in improved response times across the parish.
“The things we have put in place are working,” he said.
J.J. Vincent, attorney representing MedExpress, told jurors they were “at a crossroads.”
“Your job is to represent your constituents however they feel,” he said. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What’s best for the parish? Why have things improved?’
“There is a momentum in the parish for better care and we believe that competition will lead to better service.”