March 11, 2021

Transforming Transport and the Lives of Louisianans

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By harnessing the spirit of its people, Acadian Companies continues to improve the lives of Louisiana citizens through innovation and service diversity.

Louisianans are known for our passion for people – our unique foundation of history, family traditions, and sense of place fuels a zeal for life. It is from this family-centric culture that Acadian Companies grew, powered by strong communities and hardworking individuals.

“I think it’s the quality of the people that helped get this company started,” admits Richard Zuschlag, founder, chairman, and CEO of Acadian Companies. “That has made us the success that we are today.”

After moving to Lafayette in 1970 for a work assignment, Richard was soon on the hunt for a way to remain in-state when he recognized a need for local emergency medical support. Together, with his two partners, two ambulances, and eight medics, they started Acadian Ambulance in 1971. By employing post-war veteran medics to attend to patients during transport, Acadian Ambulance quickly established themselves as an early industry trailblazer.  

“There’s something about the loyalty in Louisiana, where everyone wants to help each other out,” Richard shares, “and that character and family-orientation made this company successful.” He often explains his feeling that had this company started anywhere else, it probably wouldn’t have worked.

With a focus on quality improvement and patient care, the company continues to grow and expand their service areas and offerings. Acadian has become a model in emergency transport, with operations now spanning four states and covering a population of more than 24 million people. Acadian Companies now encompass six divisions, including ground and air medical transport, aircraft charter services, health monitoring and response, security services, and training and educational services. But even with the expansive growth, the company stays focused on the communities they serve and the people within them, maintaining their commitment to care for family, friends, and neighbors.

The spirit of Louisiana citizens remains a driving force within the organization. Not only is Acadian one of the largest employers in the state, it is also the nation’s largest employee-owned ambulance service, placing power and decision-making abilities into the hands of those who work there. As an employer, Acadian Companies provides opportunities to citizens across the Louisiana, while also generating a large payroll tax base for the state’s economy.

Acadian employees take a great deal of pride in their work, seeing every day as an opportunity to make a difference. That passion for life and compassion for others is what continues to drive the organization forward, even through the ups and downs. In 2005, after hurricanes Katrina and Rita wreaked havoc on Louisiana, Acadian’s resources and ability to meet the needs of Louisiana was tested. The company faced similar adversity in 2010 after the BP oil spill, in 2017 following the state’s unprecedented flooding, and again, most recently, as Louisiana and the rest of the world battled the COVID-19 pandemic. But each time, Acadian took the initiative to pivot and become an innovator to meet the needs of those they serve.

In an effort to keep Louisianans healthy, Acadian Companies responded to the pandemic through improved telehealth and alternative treatment. Through their Safety Management Systems, the company worked to provide screening checkpoints and testing services, while also aiding in operating field hospitals and decontamination sites. In addition, the development of new models such as Treatment in Place and Alternative Destination Transport, allowed Acadian to help improve the health outcomes of citizens while reducing the patient load of local hospitals. But COVID-19 isn’t the only crisis the company is working to combat.  

In addition to the ever-changing landscape of the medical industry, Louisiana, like the rest of the nation, faces a severe shortage of licensed emergency practitioners. To help alleviate that strain, Acadian Companies has developed an innovative program, Hometown Heroes. Together with EMS Explorer Posts and local high schools, Acadian Companies’ Hometown Heroes Program works to train and prepare students for a career as a licensed EMT. While not every student may pursue that particular career path, the goal of the program is to provide an outlet for young people so that they have an opportunity to obtain a job that keeps them local while also making a difference in people’s lives.

While Louisiana often falls short in the realm of healthcare, Acadian Companies is doing their part to enhance the accessibility and quality of emergency medical care. Today they transport over 650,000 patients each year, a far cry from the few thousands they started with. “It takes a lot of people to make sure that this is done the right way,” says Richard. “It is the team effort and the nature of Louisiana’s people that has built this company and will allow it and our entire state to continue to flourish.”

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