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New Course Charted By ECA
After a long and mutually beneficial relationship, Escalon Community Ambulance and Oak Valley Hospital District are dissolving their partnership.

It was a mutually agreed upon move, but initiated by Oak Valley officials.

"We are going to separate out partnership, if you will," explained Escalon Community Ambulance Board President Jerry Emery. "It was a joint decision."

ECA Chief Mike Pitassi said the ambulance service has had to take the step of not renewing memberships right now, until they can obtain their own Medicare and MediCal numbers. That is in process but both Emery and Pitassi said they are unsure how long it will take.

The membership, they said, is very important to ECA and those members are what make it a community-driven ambulance service.

"At this point in time, it was better to separate from each other," Pitassi added of the split with Oak Valley. "It was amicably done and John (OVH Chief Executive Officer John McCormick) understands our core values."

Those values extend to the membership, said Pitassi, and the goal is to offer the opportunity to have members renew as soon as possible, once the service has the required numbers.

All memberships with ECA expire each year at the end of July and information will be provided to members about the lack of a renewal option at this time.

"There's a process by which we have to apply for and receive those (Medicare and MediCal numbers)," Pitassi added.

The ECA will then have its own billing process, rather than go through Oak Valley. Emery said it could take anywhere from six weeks to six months to get the required numbers in place.

"We're going to use every tool we have to speed that process up," he said of wanting to get the members reinstated.

"Some have mailed in renewals unsolicited," Pitassi said of community members wanting to keep their membership with the community ambulance service.

Escalon had been a partner with Oak Valley since 1995. Pitassi and Emery said recent changes in health care laws and procedures made it more feasible for Oak Valley to continue on without the added ambulance service.

"Hospital districts are different than ambulance districts," agreed Pitassi, saying he wasn't totally surprised by the move.

"We're hoping the community will still support us," he added.

For his part, McCormick said the decision came down to dollars and cents and staying strong as a hospital district.

"In our highly competitive industry it is critical for me to review all of our business ventures to ensure they are the best fit in our strategic model. During these last several weeks we have been carefully scrutinizing our role with this organization," he wrote in a letter regarding ECA. "We have reached the conclusion that now is the best time for both entities to separate as we think each one will be stronger from such a step."