After missing more than 4,000 rides and having as many as half of callers hang up over long wait times, the state has put a Lewiston company that arranges rides for MaineCare patients on notice.
It has until Monday to spell out what's wrong and why, and was given two months to turn its performance around.
Coordinated Transportation Solutions, headquartered in Connecticut, took over the non-emergency transportation services contracts for six regions of Maine on Aug. 1.
Since then, CTS in-house data show that from Aug. 1 to Sept. 14, between 15 percent and 58 percent of callers — people needing rides to doctors' appointments and other services — hung up before they reached a live person, according to a memo from Stefanie Nadeau, director of the Office of MaineCare Services.
During those same six weeks, the average wait time to answer a call was between 3 and 24 minutes.
The contract with the state stipulates a less than 5 percent abandonment rate (people hanging up because of long waits), and that 90 percent of calls be answered within a minute.
The ride program has been plagued with complaints since the state awarded the contract to CTS and shifted the scheduling from agencies such as Community Concepts and Western Maine Transportation Services, which used to schedule and provide the rides.
"We've given them chance after chance and are just listening to them time after time with great frustration," state Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, Senate chairwoman of the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee, said Thursday. "When somebody signs a contract and says, 'I can do the work,' we expect them to do the work."
Nadeau's Sept. 30 memo to CTS President David White said patients have missed necessary medical appointments, caretakers have missed work and medical providers are losing revenue.
She gave the company until Monday, Oct. 7, to deliver corrective action plans addressing each issue and until Dec. 1 to show "significant measurable improvement" or risk having the $28 million contract pulled. Nadeau also left open the possibility of the state recouping some of its money from a performance bond held by CTS.
"I definitely agree with it and support and feel like it was really past time," Craven said. "Two months from the department is very generous, but at least it's a start. It's the people and the customers who are at risk and are the big losers here; the taxpayers as well, of course."
In a separate report to the Legislature's Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said CTS had improved from an average 824 missed rides per week in August to 394 missed rides per week in September. She said the company had hired 27 more agents in the past month.
A message left for White on Thursday wasn't returned.