PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — Big changes came to ambulance service in Portage and neighboring Comstock and Texas townships as they replaced Pride Care with Life EMS effective Thursday.

Portage Public Safety Chief Nick Armold said Pride Care ambulance has covered Portage’s less serious medical calls since 2013. But in recent years, it has struggled with staffing, forcing Portage at times to have more medically trained firefighters on duty, which is not normal protocol.

“(With) the ambulance provider now not having sufficient resources to do that … we were now responding more often to Priority 3s,” Armold explained.

Another concern stemmed from transparency and communication problems with Pride Care’s new management.

“While at the same time, our fire division staff was working very closely with Pride staff to try to look at the data, to try to understand how the data relates to what’s required in the contract,” Armold said.

A spokesman explained Comstock Township was originally on Portage’s contract with Pride Care.

“When Portage switched to Life, we followed them to ensure our residents continue to have quality coverage,” the spokesperson said.

Dr. William Fales serves as the EMS medical director for the county’s medical control authority, which establishes local performance standards. He explained the challenges municipalities like Portage face stem from a widespread EMT shortage.

“That translates to difficulty for EMS agencies to staff at the level they would like to staff, and it puts significant demands on the system,” Fales said. “This is not at all unique to Kalamazoo, and frankly, not even to Michigan.”

In a statement, Life EMS President and CEO, Mark Meijer, said “Our South Operation… will make every effort to extend our Skill and Compassion to these communities… We also will ensure all the medics and EMTs affected by the above change in EMS providers have access to opportunities…”

Pride Care Ambulance administrators declined to talk on camera but told News 8 the company will continue to serve the area as a backup EMS operator.