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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Co-owner of Merrimack ambulance company says complaints about vehicles sound fishy

MERRIMACK – The co-owner of a Merrimack ambulance company said it may have been dirty dealing involving a bid for Manchester’s 911 ambulance contract that led to anonymous complaints about the condition of his company’s ambulances.

Rick Doherty, co-owner of CarePlus in Merrimack, said the company had already pulled nine ambulances and other vehicles off the road as part of the company’s
routine maintenance schedule when state police arrived to investigate anonymous reports that the company was using “mechanically unsafe” vehicles. ...

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MERRIMACK – The co-owner of a Merrimack ambulance company said it may have been dirty dealing involving a bid for Manchester’s 911 ambulance contract that led to anonymous complaints about the condition of his company’s ambulances.

Rick Doherty, co-owner of CarePlus in Merrimack, said the company had already pulled nine ambulances and other vehicles off the road as part of the company’s
routine maintenance schedule when state police arrived to investigate anonymous reports that the company was using “mechanically unsafe” vehicles.

The issues with the vehicles were all minor, Doherty said, such as blown license plate light bulbs and slightly loose parking brakes. State police investigators found only the same issues, he said, and the company has agreed to have the rest of its fleet inspected as a follow-up.

Several state agencies, including the Department of Transportation and Office of Emergency Management, as well as a few media outlets, received anonymous tips that the company was using unsafe vehicles, Doherty said. He theorizes it may have something to do with the company trying to win a contract to provide 911 ambulance coverage to Manchester, along with two other companies.

CarePlus provides nonemergency transports throughout the state.

“Something’s rotten in Denmark, quite frankly,” Doherty said. “Obviously with the Manchester bid coming up and it seems well orchestrated and anonymously, it just makes us suspicious that maybe the motivation isn’t public safety.”

Doherty didn’t level any specific accusations. The other two companies seeking the Manchester contract are AMR ambulance and American Ambulance, both of which Doherty praised.

“They received some tips on some issues that were nonexistent, quite frankly,” he said, referring to state police. “I have no idea where it comes from. It really became a nonissue.”

State police spokeswoman Lt. Nicole Armaganian confirmed that the state Division of Motor Vehicles forwarded several complaints to State Police Troop G, which handles commercial motor vehicle enforcement. Troop G contacted CarePlus on Tuesday. It found that the company had several ambulances it had deemed “out of service” and was no longer using.

Other ambulances and transport vans that were being used also will be inspected by state police and the state Division of Fire Standards and Training, according to a release issued by State Police Sgt. Michael McQuade.

CarePlus has cooperated fully with investigators, McQuade said, and agreed to submit its entire fleet of vehicles for inspections, which is expected to take several days.

McQuade wasn’t available for comment Friday.

Doherty said CarePlus also will bid on Nashua’s 911 contract later this year. AMR took over the city’s 911 ambulance services after St. Joseph Hospital shuttered Rockingham Ambulance in 2011.

Doherty said CarePlus purchased many of Rockingham’s ambulances when it closed.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached
at 594-6415 or jcote@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Cote
on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).