Last week, the cities of Palmview and Alton celebrated the launch of Palmview’s EMS within the neighboring city, marking Alton’s departure from contracting with private company for emergency medical services.
Predictably, representatives from Alton’s most recent contractor, Hidalgo County EMS — a company not associated with Hidalgo County — were not happy their contract was not being renewed and made their objections known during a March 26 city commission meeting.
Paul Vazaldua, the vice president of Organizational Leadership and Government Affairs for Hidalgo County EMS-South Texas Air Med, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, pointing out that Palmview continues to partner with private EMS companies for back-up.
“The city of Palmview currently has two ambulance units and plans to partner with a private company to assist,” he said before the commissioners. “The partnership with the city of Palmview is not our contention, the issue becomes that the city of Alton, by joining with Palmview — an EMS provider with little experience and even less resources — should be a concern to this council because the service is going to be provided by a private company who we know little about, a backdoor deal, if you will.”
David de Los Santos, a paramedic and business development manager with the company, asked the city commissioners to consider they had been with the city for seven years and noted they had about 27 ambulances in the Rio Grande Valley.
“We have the resources, we’re a stable company,” de Los Santos said.
Additionally, last month the company announced they finalized a contract to obtain a helicopter ambulance.
Alton City Manager Jeff Underwood said he believed the move was the better option for the city’s residents.
“We feel that with Palmview, we can do that,” Underwood said of providing better services. “That’s not a negative reflection on the current provider at all, it’s just we feel that we can do better by partnering up with Palmview.”
In pointing out that Palmview partnered with private EMS companies for back-up, Vazaldua suggested Alton was essentially circumventing the procurement process. However, he noted an attorney general opinion that found a city did not have to go through that process for EMS.
“We certainly we through all that with our city attorney and he felt very comfortable with what we were doing legally,” Underwood said.
“That’s why we moved forward tonight,” he said. “First thing was to make sure that the service was going to be better than what we’re getting — and we feel it is — and of course we want to make sure we stay in compliance with the procurement requirements.”
In response to the criticisms about the level of service that Palmview could provide, Underwood said the city felt very comfortable with the arrangement.
“They’ve really refined it, they know what they’re doing,” Underwood said of Palmview, which launched its EMS service in February 2018. “Chief Alaniz is very passionate about it, their commission is behind it (and) you can see from tonight’s vote that our commission is totally behind it so we think it’s going to be a really great partnership for the citizens her in Alton.”