With two years until the McCabe Ambulance contract expires in Bayonne, city officials apparently are looking for other bidders who will provide the service without cost to the city. Sources connected to the Davis administration said the city is looking more closely at its contract with McCabe, a company based in Bayonne.
In a separate move, Jersey City Medical Center said earlier this year that it was interested in expanding its ambulance service. That’s because they may lose one of their own contracts. They have been trying to hold on to a contract with the city of Jersey City that they’ve held for over 100 years, but may lose out to McCabe.
In order to bid for the Jersey City contract, McCabe not only offered to provide the service to that city for free, but said the company was willing to reimburse Jersey City $2.5 million to cover the cost of first responders. Jersey City’s fire department sends first responder to each medical emergency call to help stabilize patients until an ambulance can arrive, which reduces emergency response times.
“If we’ve done nothing else we’ve saved Jersey City $4 million a year even if we don’t get the contract.” – Mickey McCabe
Local officials may be looking for alternatives that will cut this cost, and could result in a request for ambulance services to charge no fee for covering Bayonne.
A Bayonne fixture
McCabe Ambulance has been operating in Bayonne since 1973, and was the sole bidder for the current ambulance contract that was approved in November 2010. The contract for ambulance and emergency dispatch services started July 1, 2011 and ends June 30, 2016 for a total of $3.9 million.
Mickey McCabe, founder of McCabe Ambulance, said he believes that JCMC is “saber rattling” in response to McCabe’s bid to win the contract with Jersey City.
JCMC has run EMS services in Jersey City for more than 100 years and was challenged late last year by McCabe. They are backed by CarePoint Health, which owns Bayonne Medical Center, Christ Hospital in Jersey City, and Hoboken University Medical Center.
“CarePoint is concerned about Christ Hospital being bypassed,” McCabe said. “That’s what the fight is all about.” Ambulance crews frequently bring emergency patients to JCMC, the county’s official trauma center.
The contract proposals from both companies to Jersey City offered to provide ambulance service free of charge for the three years of the contract.
JCMC provided service without charge to the city from 1998 to 2006, though patients were still charged, as is the standard. McCabe’s offer to provide service to Jersey City for free has prompted JCMC to match that offer and to give up the $4 million annual subsidy Jersey City gave JCMC from 2006 until last year under the prior contract. JCMC officials said the hospital had been in dire financial straits and needed the money to keep its doors open. The subsidy also allowed JCMC to modernize its ambulance service. But since then, the hospital has rebounded and JCMC says it can offer the service for free.
McCabe/CarePoint officials believe that the emergence of their competing bid may have forced JCMC to bid at no charge.
The patient factor
Both ambulance companies would make their money from transport of patients, whose insurance or other medical coverage pays for some or all of the service. Paramedics, which JCMC can already provide, are an additional cost. McCabe would have to subcontract that service if the city awards them the contract.
“If we’ve done nothing else,” McCabe said, “we’ve saved Jersey City $4 million a year even if we don’t get the contract.”
JCMC appears poised, however, to return the favor to Bayonne, by bidding a no-fee contract to compete with McCabe.
“But that’s two years away,” McCabe said. “A lot of things change in two years.”
Fulop prefers McCabe
Last December, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop recommended McCabe get the contract over JCMC. But this included a controversial reimbursement proposal – which would have McCabe giving the city $2.5 million to cover the cost of fire department first responders.
Since then the Fulop Administration has opted to seek new bids for the contract without the first-responder provision.
“The city is asking for bids on two aspects, one for providing service for the whole city,” McCabe said. “The other would divide the city north and south.”
Since Christ Hospital is in the northern part of the city, McCabe and CarePoint think splitting the city between them is a possible option.
A battle by any other name
McCabe, however, said the war between conflicting ambulance services is a misnomer. McCabe and JCMC EMS units have worked side by side for years, he said, and the real battle is really between the hospital giants, each of which is trying to secure the insurance and other payments that emergency cases bring in.
While McCabe can’t say what Jersey City will do, he said he is not concerned about Bayonne, where politics is a factor.
McCabe worked closely with former Mayor Mark Smith, whom Davis defeated in June. Some Davis supporters may be working behind the scenes to punish McCabe for his political loyalty.
“I get along very well with Jimmy Davis,” McCabe said. “In fact his son works for us. Jimmy [the mayor and police captain] and I have worked on the street together,” McCabe said “We have two years left on our contract. The landscape will change in that time.”
In a statement issued in response to a request for comment, JCMC said, “Jersey City Medical Center has an outstanding reputation for providing EMS services, innovative methods of dispatch and among the best response times in the nation. Our EMS is the only locally-based system in Hudson County that is nationally accredited in operations, dispatch and training. JCMC will review any and all bids (RFP’s) which are released and determine how best Jersey City Medical Center can work with the community to ensure the best quality EMS services. Jersey City Medical Center is a not for profit community- based organization.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.