The light blue and white ambulances that are familiar sights around Key West are set to become more visible up and down the Keys.
The parent company of the sky-blue striped Care ambulances that has been serving emergency 911 calls in Key West since 2010 will take over most of the duties held by another ambulance company that operates in the Lower Keys, but business leaders said Wednesday the only change residents are likely to notice is the color of the vehicles. Denmark-based Falck that operates in 35 countries has purchased American Ambulance Service, the Miami-based venture that performs inter-hospital transfers from Lower Keys Medical Center to hospitals (as well as the other two Keys hospitals) on the mainland.
Falck also bought out Alabama-based LifeStar that operates the blue and white Care trucks in Key West about three years ago.
Now that both Care and American Ambulance Service are owned by the same company, Care will take over most of the Lower Keys work while American focuses more on Miami-Dade County needs, said American Ambulance Service Regional CEO Charles Maymon.
"You'll see more Care trucks at the hospital (Lower Keys Medical Center) and more Care ambulances going up and down the Keys," said Care Operations Manager David Erwin. "It's more like a merger. I have more trucks here and more resources available." Care has seven ambulances at its disposal and typically keeps three on the road at all times, but now will keep four staffed ambulances to cover Lower Keys Medical Center duties, Erwin said.
Maymon realized Care had more of a foothold on the Keys and Falck leaders directed him to consolidate resources in South Florida, so the shift made sense, he said.
Meanwhile, American Ambulance Service will continue to share transfer duties from Fishermen's Hospital in Marathon and Mariners Hospital in Islamorada with another company called American Medical Response (AMR).
AMR once had the contract for Key West emergency calls, but the city voted in November 2010 to go with Care after a paid consultant said Care would save the city as much as $625,000 a year.
Emergency 911 calls in Marathon remain under the purview of city-funded Marathon Fire Rescue crews and Upper Keys emergency calls continue to be handled by Key Largo Fire Rescue, which is funded through a special taxing district.