Ambulance service pulling the plug in Newaygo, Oceana counties


HESPERIA, Mich. (WOOD) — Residents of more than six Newaygo and Oceania county communities, including the Village of Hesperia, will soon have to wait longer for an ambulance to show up at their door.

Muskegon-based EMS provider Pro Med has decided to cut service to those communities as of July 1.

Low patient volumes, low reimbursement rates and higher costs of per-patient operations are reason Pro Med says it will stop serving those areas.

“We are grateful for the support of the communities in Newaygo and Oceana counties for the past 17 years,” Pro Med President Tom Schmiedeknecht said. “However, the costs associated with running an ambulance service cannot be mitigated with community support alone.”

Along with the Village of Hesperia, Denver, Beaver and Troy townships are losing service on the Newaygo County side. Newfield, Greenwood and portions of three other townships in Oceana County will be effected by the decision. In all, local officials estimate that will affect 5,000 and 6,000 residents, not including vacationers.

The ambulance that serves those areas is located in the Village of Hesperia.

Leaders in some of the communities in Newaygo County say Life Ambulance, which already serves most  of the county, will pick up service in some of those areas.

Oceana EMS will pick up service in the eastern townships. Oceana EMS Director Lance Corey says the county has already taken steps to expand its state license to provide advanced life support ambulance service to areas of the county now covered by Pro Med. There are no immediate plans by Oceana EMS to add more ambulances, but the agency is looking at alternatives to cut response times to those areas.

Similar steps are being taken in Newaygo County.

The chance of another advanced life support ambulance being stationed in Hesperia are slim.

One of the current paramedics who works out of the Hesperia station says  increased response time are a real concern.

“It’s frustrating. It’s sad for us to leave the area and I believe they really  need us,” Pro Med Paramedic Toni Wallace said. “They really need the community support up here. They rely on us. It’s really sad for us to have to leave that, that whole community ambulance thing.”

Pro Med officials say while it was difficult to reach, it’s a business decision. Even with Hesperia providing Pro Med with a station to work out of and other communities subsidizing the operation, in the 17 years Pro Med has operated the Hesperia station, it has never broken even, let alone made a profit.

Schmiedeknecht says that subsidy provides between $40,000 and $50,000 annually, but the Hesperia station cost about $600,000 each year to operate.

“Over the years,  the cost of providing the service increased, but the call volume, the revenues, did not keep pace. So the small loss became a larger  loss to the point that it really wasn’t something we could overcome with more support from the community and it wasn’t going to be made up in more volume,” Schmiedeknecht said.

Pro Med officials say they are working with other providers to fill in the gaps.

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