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New ambulance company moves into Rowan County, filling need as COVID hospitalizations remain high

SALISBURY — When one of Rowan County’s ambulance service providers abruptly announced the discontinuation of operations last month, Rowan EMS Division Chief Lennie Cooper had little time to find a replacement.

He found help in a familiar face.

Before Cooper could even begin contacting other ambulance companies in the region, he was approached by Providence Transportation. Bradley Nations, a part-time emergency medical technician for Rowan County, works as operations supervisor for Providence.

The Lexington-based company was founded in 2013 by David Stevens as a wheelchair transportation business. Providence eventually branched into ambulance services in March of 2020.

Providence previously expressed interest in expanding into Rowan County and saw the perfect opportunity to do just that when Nu Care Carolina suddenly stopped providing services on Aug. 27 with just five days notice.

“When we heard about Nu Care closing their doors, obviously we reached out to (Rowan County EMS) right away,” Providence CEO and founder David Stevens said. “They were happy to hear from us. We had a meeting with them before the week was out and had our franchise application submitted the day that Nu Care closed.”

To operate in Rowan County, ambulance service providers must obtain a franchise. Providence was operating under “emergency assistance mode” after taking over from Nu Care Carolina, but it was approved for a franchise by the Board of Commissioners earlier this month.

“Providence has made a strong commitment,” Cooper said. “(Nations) understands the system and he understands the need. He’s in a good position to know what the needs are and to assist with addressing the needs.”

Quickly filling the void left by Nu Care Carolina was paramount due to the current demand for transportation services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s a high demand for COVID needs,” Cooper said. “The 911 center broadcasts if they have a COVID positive patient and I hear COVID positive a lot. You see the numbers at Novant Health Rowan and if you’ve looked at the broader numbers, you see that they’re very similar everywhere. That increases the demand on us for the call volume of the people we need to transport.”

The pandemic, Cooper said, has put greater stress on the entire system.

If Providence wasn’t able to fill the hole left by Nu Care Carolina as quickly as it did, Cooper said there could have been delays in hospital discharges.

Providence is now one of two privately-owned ambulance companies with franchises in Rowan County. American Transmed, which also has a franchise, primarily provides non-emergency transportation to the VA Medical Center. The Rowan County Rescue Squad and Kannapolis Fire Department are public entities with franchises, but Cooper said they offer services in select emergency situations only.

Providence will initially provide non-emergency transportation services for at least 12 hours per day while it works to expand its physical footprint in Rowan County. That means Providence will focus on shuttling immobile patients to medical appointments, hospital discharges and hospice transportation. Stevens said the company currently has one ambulance stationed in a “standby location,” but hopes to have a physical location soon.

Once Providence has settled in, Stevens said the company plans on bolstering its services by having two ambulances present in Rowan County. In addition to its non-emergency role, Providence plans on eventually providing emergency backup to Rowan EMS. 

Stevens said Providence is not yet offering its wheelchair transportation services in Rowan County, but may look to do so in the future. More information about Providence Transportation can be found online at providencetransport.com or 336-472-7433.

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