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Lee County Commission Rejects Medicab for Fort Myers

The Sept. 21 Lee County Commission meeting led to the rejection of Medicab services in Fort Myers.

Medicab, which is a private company, would assist people in need of medical transportation. On April 1 it filed for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (COPCN) and proceeded with the administrative review process.

Medicab would provide basic life support, (BLS) meaning it would provide oxygen, CPR administration and life-saving medications, such as epinephrine for a person going into anaphylactic shock.

Medicab, if approved, would have provided transportation to people to and from a hospital, a nursing home, a rehab facility, or to doctor’s appointments in the county.

On April 5, four days after Medicab filed for the certificate, it was rejected by Benjamin Abes, the director of public safety, for being insufficient because it did not meet insurance requirements.

However, the next month, Medicab had fixed the errors and Abesapproved the application. The next step is the approval process is the public hearing, where the commissioners can either approve or deny the COCPN.

Martin Ndung’u, Medicab’s president, spoke to the commission at its regular meeting Sept. 21. “Medicab would create safety in this area,” said Ndung'u, “And we would need its services more as the economy grows. It would also provide employment in this area.”

Abes pointed out that Medicab is not licensed by the Florida Department of Health. Medicab would need a COPCN to then apply with the Florida Department of Health. Abes also said that Medicab did not identify anyone advising them or consulting with them on their application.

There were also several problems with the application, including lack of documentation.

“Lee County relies on a need for service, and there were no documents from Medicab identifying that Lee County, and facilities like Lee Health, needed their services,” said Andrea Fraser, the deputy county attorney. “They also were not supported by organizations like Lee Health.”

NDung’u responded. “We are one of two BLS services in Lee County. Lee Health cannot participate with us because it would show partiality in one company over another.”

In the staff report regarding Medicab’s potential COPCN, it states that Select Specialty Hospital in Fort Myers had been using their services for non-emergency transportation, but it could not quantify the number of trips provided by Medicab.

NDung’u says that the data was not a requirement of the application. “Medicab has those numbers, and we will have to plan accordingly in the future,” said NDung’u.

Medicab is also not approved by the Better Business Bureau.

“The BBB does not benefit our business,” said NDung’u. “I would rather rely on Google Reviews and the relationships with our patients than some organization based in Orlando.”

Matthew Bush, a Medicab representative, offered additional documentation. He presented the license of Dr. Kenneth Berdick, who serves as Medicab’s medical director. The Florida Department of Health has issued several disciplinary actions for Berdick, including “failing to create and keep legible medical records justifying course of treatment of his patients,” in 2019 and “failing to meet the requirements of HIPPA by discarding confidential patient information, in a garbage receptacle easily open and to any one walking by,” in 2016.

“Medicab values experience, and Dr. Berdick has 40 years of experience in the medical field,” said NDung’u. “He is also not hands-on in the company; he simply advises us on what we need to do in regards to BLS. He is only there for advisory purposes. This company is a team effort.”

NDung’u has not given up on Medicab. “We were not properly prepared for speaking in front of the board. We did not disclose all our information to Abes, and waited to present it at the board meeting. I believe that the board made a proper decision based on the information they had at the time. We feel optimistic.”

Medicab is going to file for another COPCN in the future.

This story was produced by Democracy Watch, a news service of Florida Gulf Coast University journalism students. The reporter can be reached at satartaglia5233@eagle.fgcu.edu.