Private Public Partnerships Can Be Bad Business

Crazy ambulancesWhen private companies try to make a profit by providing a public service, it can spell disaster for the citizens they are supposed to be serving.

The worst examples of these disasters have taken place in those towns and cities that have allowed private business to run their Emergency Management System.  Try calling 911 when the company has just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; one Tennessee woman literally died waiting for help to come.

All of us count on our government to provide certain essential goods and services.  Water systems, firefighting, ambulance and emergency responders are just a few of the more vital services we look to our city and county governments to provide us with for the tax dollars we pay.  Unfortunately, as the recession of 2008 hit, many governments were faced with an inability to fund the dollars needed for these services and that’s when private companies saw an opportunity to make money.  Never mind that many of these companies had no experience in running public services such as these.  Sadly, the decision makers within the local government that were awarding private companies with these contracts (usually to the low bidder) overlooked the fact that making a profit and doing everything possible to save lives and property, regardless of cost, are completely incompatible with one another.

As a York County Supervisor, I was appalled by this seemingly outrageous breach of the public’s trust by officials that had obviously place money and likely, votes ahead of their citizens' well-being.  How does something so ill advised happen?  Unfortunately, most of the money to fund such business comes from you and me; in other words, our pensions are providing the fuel to these private equity firms that have neither the oversight or the good sense to know that this makes for bad business.  As the 2008 recession hit and interest rates and the stock market plummeted, private equity firms began to look around for creative ways in which to invest the trillions of dollars they controlled and this is the result of their so-called brilliance.

However, when TransCare EMS went bankrupt earlier this year, the major of Mount Vernon, New York made the following statement: “[TransCare EMS], private equity has, in this case, threatened public safety,” said Richard Thomas “It’s not the way to treat the public.”  Doesn't it beg the question of where was Mayor Thomas accountability in all of this?  This bankruptcy did not happen in a vacuum so even were we to overlook the lack of  wisdom that he and his governing board's displayed in their decision to hire this company, where was their oversight as those services slowly began to erode?

To be fair, not all such enterprises have been a disaster.  Some businesses operate in rural areas where it would otherwise be impossible for the locality to fund services from the taxes it collects.  In these rural areas of Virginia however, they are blessed with volunteer fire and rescue services. One would hope that these private companies would not try to interfere with these good Samaritans if they tried to set up shop in their town.  Nor should this blog discourage readers from using private ambulances where they do provide needed services. Seniors and the disabled have found the transportation these companies provide to be invaluable as traditional EMS will not furnish such service.

I am constantly harping on my constituents to stay involved in the local government.  I now add to this request the need for anyone planning on moving from our area to investigate the services in their new community.  The life you save may be your own. Call us for a complimentary consultation or register online for our complimentary seminars on topics of interest to you and your loved ones.

Reference: New York Times, (June 25, 2016) “When You Dial 911 and Wall Street Answer


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