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Major corp. will run ambulance services

Anyone in Canada’s eastern-most provinces who calls for emergency medical help will have an ambulance owned by Medavie EMS arrive at their door.

The future owners of Baystate Health Ambulance have a monopoly on all emergency services in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island — a space that has nearly four times the population of Franklin County. They respond to hundreds of thousands of calls each year, run two paramedic schools and have trained Canadian armed forces.

Still, a handful of town and public safety officials who met with Medavie EMS last week don’t seem all that intimidated by their soon-to-be neighbor.

“They definitely seem like a group that understands the business and knows what they’re doing,” said Joseph Judd, chairman of the Shelburne Board of Selectmen. “They seemed very sincere of wanting to take care of the people of our community and to give better service.”

The company — which will begin running the ambulance service in seven Franklin County towns in April — also impressed Randy Crochier, who serves on Gill’s Selectboard and Board of Health.

Crochier told colleagues at a Cooperative Public Health District meeting last week that he was excited by a plan the company uses in Canada: where emergency dispatchers are trained to send different crews to homes in different scenarios. Ambulances could be sent out, as they are now, to transport patients to Baystate Franklin Medical Center. But other crews could also be dispatched, with the goal of treating non-emergency injuries in the home and saving the patient an emergency room visit.

“We’re not talking about this stuff conceptually. ... We’ve been doing (it),” said John Ferguson, a spokesman for the ambulance company’s United States branch.

“We realized a long time ago that we’re going to have to reinvent ourselves,” he said. “People are not going to continue to pay ambulance services a bunch of money to take people to the hospital, only to determine whether they need to be there or not.”

Those changes won’t happen overnight in Franklin County, said Ferguson. He stressed that the company will initially focus on maintaining all written contracts and verbal commitments that Baystate Health had with seven Franklin County towns.

Medavie EMS visited Greenfield last week for the first time since announcing it planned to buy the service from Baystate Health. Company representatives talked to ambulance employees about the transition (all but a handful are expected to be offered jobs with the company) and then met with town officials to talk about their plans going forward.

Bernardston Fire Chief Peter Shedd told his town’s Board of Selectmen last week that he didn’t foresee significant changes to service. Turners Falls Fire Chief Robert Escott Jr. echoed those sentiments.

And Mayor William Martin said he felt confident with Baystate Health’s selection — although he added that Greenfield will still evaluate its public safety options over the next few months.

From Nova Scotia to Massachusetts

From its roots in Nova Scotia in the 1990s, the ambulance family of companies known as Medavie EMS stretched west into six provinces. It currently has provincial-wide contracts with Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island through 2016 and with New Brunswick through 2017.

After buying additional ambulance services in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, Medavie EMS began to look south of the border, said Ferguson, a spokesman for the company’s United States branch.

The company bought the Boston-based Eascare ambulance service in December 2012. Baystate Health Ambulance, which also provides backup and performs transport duties in the Springfield region, was the company’s second purchase in the United States.

Ferguson said the company is still getting used to a different health care system and a market saturated with medical businesses competing with one another.

“But at the end of the day, the front end of it is the same, right?” he said. “There (are) patients that have a need and we’re trying to satisfy those needs.”

Chris Curtis and David Rainville contributed to this report.

You can reach Chris Shores at: cshores@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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