August 2, 2012 will be my 30-year anniversary at Community EMS and because this milestone came upon me much too fast, and frankly unexpectedly, I thought it appropriate that I talk about the journey because it is an important anniversary for the company and me. In 1982, while I was waiting to get into Emory University graduate school in Atlanta Georgia, an opportunity came my way to start an EMS system for Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills Michigan. I was asked to consider the job because I was a Paramedic with a degree, or maybe it was because I was a Medic who cared about people and quality each day I put on my uniform and went to work.
Back in 1982 EMS was not a profession that anybody could last in for more than a couple of years; mostly because EMS was a Mom and Pop kind of business and most companies with the exception of a few, had no money and what money they did have was taken by the owners. Reinvesting back into the company to improve quality of care or the working conditions for the medics in the streets just wasn't done. I remember using a coat hanger to keep the back doors of the ambulance closed in my truck so the stretcher would not roll out onto the street. Equipment was mostly recycled or borrowed, the caregivers had to be creative just to get patients the treatment they deserved and vehicle safety was secondary. If you wanted to keep your truck running you better know how to do vehicle maintenance in addition to pre-hospital care. In fact, while not on runs, I remember changing the oil in my old truck because no auto shop would do it as my company owed everybody money.
Botsford Hospital leader Mr. Gerson Cooper realized back in 1982 that pre-hospital care and logistics were critical elements in health care delivery for the communities Botsford served, so he hired, as he described me, a "wet behind the ear" medic to start one of the first of its kind EMS systems that was actually part of a hospital delivery system. The doors opened in August 1982 with four broken down old trucks and 25 employees emerging from a bankrupt company out of Redford Township called Am-Care, Inc. This small new company called Community EMS didn't have an easy start; mostly because existing companies in the region like Paramed and Taylor Ambulance did not like the model and thought hospitals should not be in the EMS business. They developed strategies to try and keep the "new" company from growing, but with innovation and a focus on quality, CEMS continued to add ambulances and expanded its service area even with the tremendous efforts being expended by its competitors to keep it from happening. Within the first five years in business, CEMS expanded to northern Oakland County and the entire downriver area adding over 100 jobs and 25 additional ambulances.
In the late 1980's CEMS started Life Support Training Institute (LSTI) and Parastar to develop growth and service lines. It was felt that LSTI was critical to fund the human capital needs for our aggressive growth initiatives. We realized quickly that hiring people from other companies who didn't know or scribe to our culture of people and quality could best be mitigated by growing our own people from within, so the expansion continued. One thing most don't know, or may not remember, is Parastar was started not as a consulting company but as an ambulance distributor. Parastar in fact sold ambulances to other companies and fire departments for about a year until we realized that we paid the dealer representative more than we made and the ambulance manufacturer we represented provided an awful product and hurt our relationship with everybody who purchased from us. So, in the 1990's Parastar was converted into a consulting firm who would specialize in health care system medical and non-medical logistics. One of the first growth models Parastar developed almost 16 years ago in Zanesville Ohio was the Joint Venture model that has exploded over the last five years. Currently Community EMS, through the growth by collaboration model, has 12 companies operating in five states employing almost 2000 employees and this year CEMS family of companies will transport over 300,000 EMS patients. It is expected that CEMS will continue adding two to four Joint Venture companies annually with many currently in the pipeline.
The success of Community EMS is extraordinary because of its employees and its culture mindset that providing quality patient care and taking care of its employees is the driver of what our people do each day when they put on their uniform and go out into the streets to make a difference; just like I did 30 years ago when I was a young medic.
I want to thank everybody that has supported me over the last 30 years and gave me a chance to achieve my professional dream because it has been a great journey. I have exceeded my dreams and goals.
President and CEO