By Sue Moore
“We will move mountains to make sure the staff of South County Emergency Medical Services (SCEMS) is taken care of,” said Brian Balow, a consultant from Pride Care Ambulance who has overseen the service since it was on life support last summer.
“There are 16,000 residents of south Kalamazoo County who need ambulance service,” said Wes Schmitt, re-appointed as president of the newly created board of directors. “By forming a new board of directors sponsored by Pride Care, we are bringing in a fresh perspective. It means we can leverage the assets that Pride Care has to get South County EMS back on its feet. Their economies of scale have already been helpful along with the knowledge they bring from many years of successful operations.”
New members on the board include Deb Smittendorf, who is project manager in Balow’s company. She lives in Vicksburg and has children in the school system. Her ability to understand the clearing houses for Medicaid and Medicare is essential, Schmitt acknowledged.
Trevor McLeod is serving on the new board as the technology expert. The web site for the service will be reconstituted with his expertise, along with the Facebook page that Amber Louis now maintains.
Another game changer has been an agreement from Kalamazoo County State Bank to refinance the mortgage from 15 years to 25 at prime plus one percent adjustable. This results in a considerable reduction in per month payments, according to Jeff DeLeeuw, chief financial officer of the newly constituted board. “With the changes Pride Care has made financially, we believe the ambulance service will survive and thrive in South County,” Schmitt said.
Ann Balow, the wife of Brian Balow, was also appointed to the board. It meets the first and third Monday of each month either in Portage or Vicksburg.
Pride Care just landed the contract with the city of Portage to provide ambulance service, giving the company the responsibility of providing service to half of the county. The CEO of Pride is Bill Mears who has been attending the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority board meetings for several months. He has assured that board of the progress Pride Care is making in operating the two services. The authority contracts with SCEMS for services and is keenly interested in its survival.