PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Dennis Duncan wants the chance for the company he represents, Philips North America, to compete against the company that state officials have already chosen, Stryker, to deliver the latest generation of potentially life-saving defibrillators to South Dakota emergency medical providers.

The dispute re-surfaced Thursday before the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee. South Dakota Health Secretary Joan Adam and her deputy, Lynne Valenti, told the panel that legally they didn’t need to issue a request for proposals, because the LIFEPAK 15s they’re buying from Stryker are medical devices and therefore exempt from state bidding laws.

“We had no intent of conducting an RFP,” Adam said.

Adam said there were questions she wouldn’t answer because Duncan, a Sioux Falls lawyer, gave notice to the state Department of Health on June 28 that he might be taking the matter to court.

Responded Duncan, “No decision has been made to bring any litigation against anybody.”

Duncan said he first inquired in May whether there would be a competitive bid process and the department claimed a medical-services exemption. “It seems like the definition of what we’re talking about is a moving target all the time,” he said.

Duncan argued that a competitive bidding process would find out whose product is the best value. He cited a state Bureau of Finance and Management guidance regarding COVID-19 relief funds that a stricter process should be used.

Adam said the Legislature amended the general budget bill to specifically provide $20 million for the purchase. The package that Stryker has offered for 345 ambulance units and related data services comes to a final price of $11.6 million, she said, after various discounts and credits are accounted for. The new devices would replace older LIFEPAK 15s that have become outdated. Those were purchased using a grant from the Helmsley Foundation about 12 years ago.

“And we have proceeded with the purchase,” Adam said. She deferred to Valenti, an attorney, who suggested the replacements could be in ambulances in possibly six months but couldn’t say for sure, because of supply-chain uncertainty. “We are planning on moving forward with our procurement,” Valenti said.

Duncan in turn said litigation would mean enjoining the procurement and then disqualifying the procurement that could take years. He said the department could issue an RFP next week that gave 30 days to respond and the public could know what the competition was.

Duncan said local emergency-medical services should get to choose. He told of a Spearfish provider who doesn’t want Stryker or Philips.

The committee won’t decide the matter but wanted to “gather the information, get it all on the public record,” according to its chairman, Representative Randy Gross, an Elkton Republican.

Gross said there appears to be room for improvement in state bid laws and policies that were rewritten 12 years ago. “But that’s not going to happen overnight either. We’ve got a legislative session coming up,” he said.