Employees of Mercy Flight's ground ambulance service in Genesee County can expect to be held to high standards, CEO Douglas H. Baker told a gathering of local leaders last night in a meeting the Fire Training Center.
"I'll probably be in Genesee County more than you want to see me," Baker said. "I'll be here nearly every day. I'm going to make sure that this is either done my way, or it's not going to be done at all. We're not going to be embarrassed."
Baker made it clear that Mercy Flight employees will be expected to be professional, compassionate, courteous and enthusiastic. He said while the job is hard at times and enthusiasm can wane, he expects employees to reflect his enthusiasm for the profession.
"When our crews respond, they will be kind and responsive," Baker said. "If they're not, I don't care how good of an EMT they are, they're not going to work for us."
Baker said he expects the level of service in the county to be the same or better under Mercy Flight.
The organization has ordered four new ambulances that are in production now.
While it remains Mercy Flight's goal to retain as many city ambulance service personnel as possible, all potential employees will need to pass a background check and make it through an interview process.
"We're not going to hire somebody just because they're working now," Baker said.
But he also assured leaders that the new service will seem very familiar to them because they will see a lot of familiar faces and many of the same policies and practices that current personnel are using will remain in place.
"In general we will keep doing what you've been doing for all these years, unless you want us to change," Baker said. "We intend not to change, not even the people."
Indicating that Mercy Flight's goal is to be responsive to community concerns, Baker said that if officials aren't happy with anything that Mercy Flight is doing, it's their responsibility to make sure Mercy Flight managers or executives know about the problems so they can be addressed.
Ambulances will be based at UMMC North Street, UMMC Bank Street and at the airport, with another kept on standby. If it proves that that configuration isn't working for the community, and the statistics back up any issues identified, Mercy Flight will move ambulances to new bases as needed. And if necessary, Mercy Flight will add a fourth, or even a fifth crew, if it turns out more resources are needed to meet guaranteed response times.
"I don't want to be making decisions about where the ambulances should be," Baker said. "I want the community to decide where the ambulances should be."
Each municipality is being asked to sign a contract with Mercy Flight, but if officials from a particular town or city don't sign, Mercy Flight will still respond to emergencies in those communities. The only difference is the local leaders will not be able to hold Mercy Flight to guaranteed response times.
"I'm thrilled for an opportunity for a contract," said Town of Batavia Supervisor Greg Post after the meeting. "I think they carry the greatest degree of professionalism. And I'm pleased there's another step in getting government out of the ambulance business."
Batavia City Councilman Sam Baron also said he feels good about Mercy Flight coming into Batavia. He said city residents can feel confident that the level of ambulance service under Mercy Flight will be just the same as what they've had in the past.
AUDIO: After the meeting, I recorded a separate interview with Mr. Baker.