After a series of questions and public comments about response to a down football player at the recent Clinton Homecoming game, the county Ambulance Committee voted to open ambulance service in the community up for bid at its Monday, Oct. 16, meeting.

The committee, made up of representatives of Van Buren County, its cities, the rescue squad and hospital, was formed as part of the ordinance which led to a single-provider ambulance contract for the county and its cities five years ago. The contract was let in November, 2012 with Southern Paramedic Services, and will end November 2017.

Southern Paramedic Services CEO Gary Padget attended, and spent a great deal of the meeting fielding questions from both committee members and the public, as well as responding to recitation of facts by those involved in the two-week-past incident where a student-athlete was stricken by a asthma attack on the football field and received what many spectators and others have classified as less-than-adequate response from the ambulance medic.

Included in the public comment were several paramedics who faulted the first responder not carrying a bag with him as he first responded to the student. Committee members had question as when a oxygen bottle was brought out, the ambulance staff was not able to find the hose to allow it to be used for the student.

Doctor Keith Coward, who stays on the sidelines with the Clinton team during games, and was present and attending to the student when he was first stricken before the medic arrived, explained to the committee that oxygen was important during an asthma attack, and the lack of it field said had the potential to turn “respiratory distress to respiratory failure.”

Coward pointed out the ambulance attendant’s “antagonistic-type relationship” with him during the initial response to the student’s becoming stricken. He and several others pointed out that is was ambulance attendants from another firm, there with the visiting team, were ultimately instrumental in applying first aid leading to the student’s recovery.

Padget and his medical director, Doctor C.L. Simpson, both agreed that the matter could have been handled differently. They and members of the company presented what they were doing to make sure such an event never happened, again. As part of this the school and the ambulance service met a few days after the event and in the future a medic will be on-field, with equipment, behind the team’s bench (as had been reported earlier).

Padget, after a break, was called back to respond to assertions that his company had been in breach of contract 17 times, cited in a document turned over to the committee. He responded to each one in turn, with significant time spent on how ambulance response times were tracked. By now the meeting was over two hours in length.

With this the committee, after discussion, then voted to open the contract renewal up to bid.

“We need to do this out of respect for our community,” Committee member and Justice of the Peace Dale James said.

Some discussion had been held at the previous meeting - before the Homecoming game event - to renew the contract without bid.

“Obviously we’re dissatisfied,” Padget said, “We feel like we’ve done a great job here, have been a great corporate partner and competed in the marketplace.”