A Gap in Coverage

Critics of GoldStar ambulance service say it's late to emergencies, cares for profits over patients, and doctors its books. But without it, there's nothing.

Nicklas later submitted a formal complaint against GoldStar to the Bureau of Emergency Management. She said GoldStar's failure to outfit her with a C-collar, a C-spine device and a Kendrick Extrication Device violated the bureau's rules. An investigation of the complaint is pending.

Nicklas's battle with GoldStar quickly escalated. The company accused her of lying, even though she had witnesses. Company medics gave her cold glares at accident scenes. And yet Nicklas kept pressuring Gene Clark and the Emergency Services District. She stood up at a meeting in February and demanded someone take the company to task. "They can just skate by and get away with anything," she said. "Poor patient care, the response times are horrible, they don't know where they are, they don't know what they're doing. But as long as you're happy, they can continue this.

"Who is going to have to die before somebody does something around here?" she said, and she sat back down.

Daniel Hopkins and Melissa Brame say they waited 
nearly an hour before a GoldStar helicopter arrived at 
the scene of their recent auto accident to transport her 
son Chevy to the hospital.
Daniel Kramer
Daniel Hopkins and Melissa Brame say they waited nearly an hour before a GoldStar helicopter arrived at the scene of their recent auto accident to transport her son Chevy to the hospital.
With 91 ambulances, two helicopters and two 
Learjets, GoldStar EMS is the largest private 
ambulance company in southeast Texas. But now it's 
shrinking.
Daniel Kramer
With 91 ambulances, two helicopters and two Learjets, GoldStar EMS is the largest private ambulance company in southeast Texas. But now it's shrinking.

Two days later, her husband, Lonnie Nicklas, the chief of the Shepherd Volunteer Fire Department, had a heart attack. The GoldStar ambulance based in Shepherd was in Coldspring, ten miles away, probably covering for another ambulance doing a transfer, but nobody knows outside of GoldStar. If it had been on standby in Shepherd, it would have arrived in five minutes. Instead it arrived in 12, not fast enough to revive Lonnie Nicklas.

Cindi Nicklas doesn't know if subtracting seven minutes would have meant that her husband would now be sitting at the adjacent desk. "God only knows that," she says, trying not to cry. "But it sure would have made me feel a whole hell of a lot better."

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