Updated Mon, Dec 9, 2013 3:26 pm
Life Ambulance has closed its station on Kimberly Road near Nelsonville, part of a shut down of its parent company that has impacted ambulance stations across Ohio and in other states.
A sign posted at the Kimberly Road station states that parent company FirstMed EMS filed for bankruptcy Friday. The sign states that the bankruptcy includes Life Ambulance, as well as MedCorp and Trans Med.
Attempts by The Messenger to contact FirstMed were not successful.
First Med's website was not operational Monday morning, but a jobs website for Life Ambulance lists Life Ambulance stations in Nelsonville, Marietta, Parkersburg, Chillicothe, Portsmouth, Gallipolis, Jackson and other locations.
A reporter for the Jackson Times-Journal, a sister newspaper of The Messenger, confirmed Monday morning that the Jackson station is closed. John Walsh, former manager of the Gallipolis station, was at the Jackson facility Monday.
"It's sad and came as a shock to us all," Walsh said. "We knew they had made some cuts and downsized to make Life Ambulance more efficient, but nobody knew that this was going to happen."
Word was received by employees on Friday.
"They called us around 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6, and informed us that we had to inform our employees that this business was no longer operating, that everything was being shut down," Walsh said. "The shutdown was companywide."
According to Walsh, 30 employees at Jackson and 13 at Gallipolis lost their jobs. The Messenger was not able to determine the number of employees at the Kimberly Road station.
"The company has not gave us any real reasons why, other than what we heard about the lack of money," Walsh said.
In response to a public records request, the Ohio Division of EMS provided The Messenger with an undated letter from FirstMed CEO Bryan Gibson to FirstMed employees.
"As many of you are aware, the company has been challenged for some time and we are unfortunately now in a position where there is not sufficient cash to keep the company operational," Gibson wrote.
He indicated that attempts to restructure the company's debt were not successful.
"The company's owners had funded FirstMed for several years while the company struggled to generate positive cash flow," Gibson wrote. "I have been with the company for the past 90 days attempting to turn the company around and the company's owners tried to restructure the debt with the banks, but could not reach a deal to put in additional capital needed to keep the company solvent."
Life Ambulance is a medical transport company, and it's unclear if the closing of the Kimberly Road station will impact Athens County Emergency Medical Service.
"That remains to be seen," said EMS Chief Rick Callebs. "I anticipate we will have a bump in non-emergency calls ... the borderline stuff that the private ambulance services take."
Callebs noted that another private service, MedCare, still has a facility in Athens.
Philip Koster of MedCare said the company is in the process of opening a second station in The Plains and is hiring.
The website EMS1.com states that FirstMed, which through Life Ambulance and MedCorp combined to make the largest provider of EMS service in Ohio, abruptly shut down on Friday, putting hundreds of employees out of work without notice.
Citing media sources, EMS1.com reported that First Med purchased Life Ambulance in 2011 and operated nearly 250 vehicles out of more than 20 bases in Ohio and West Virginia.