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Shared EMS might offer more, but cost more

SOUTH DEERFIELD — While emergency medical services and response times would improve in a tri-town regional ambulance system, costs most likely wouldn’t drop.

The three southern Franklin County towns — Deerfield, Whately and Sunderland — are trying to create Franklin County’s first regional ambulance service that might cost taxpayers more but is seen as a better service for residents.

Based on estimates by a consultant, the three towns could pay an additional $200,000 combined per year for the improved EMS service.

“This will be an improvement in services. It won’t be a cost savings for any town,” conceded Whately Town Administrator Lynn Sibley.

Currently, each town contributes a different amount to each of its separate departments.

For this year, Whately collected approximately $27,000 in revenue from private insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid. The cost to run the ambulance is $25,000.

In Sunderland, this year the total cost to operate the ambulance is $158,959. About $97,000 is funded through the ambulance fees and the rest is funded through taxes.

In Deerfield, the ambulance service budget this year is $266,319. This includes $170,000 a year collected in revenue or fees from insurance companies. Taxes pay the rest.

What the exact costs for each town would be for a tri-town round-the-clock service still needs to be determined. The oversight board made up of the three town fire chiefs and three town administrators will calculate the costs for April 1. Then, the three selectboards will be asked to endorse the EMS plan and bring it forward for special town meeting votes.

“We have been tasked with coming up with an implementation plan. Part of our work here before April 1 will be to review the consultant numbers and make sure they closely match what we can expect,” said Sunderland Town Administrator Margaret Nartowicz.

Based on the recommendation of the town’s fire chiefs and hired EMS consultant, Bruce Baxter and Associates in Haverhill, the service based in South Deerfield would staff a first call-first response Class 1 paramedic ambulance 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Simultaneous or second calls would be managed by on-call personnel in a reserve ambulance, which would be either the Sunderland or Whately ambulance.

Half of the EMS staff would be paramedic level certified. Right now, the departments rely on a dwindling number of volunteer EMTs. Deerfield has 20 EMTs and three paramedics. Sunderland has one full-time firefighter and EMT.

Though Deerfield has two fire districts — Old Deerfield Fire District and South Deerfield Fire District — the ambulance only runs out of the South Deerfield Fire Station on Greenfield Road.

By sharing an EMS service, the three towns hope to provide a consistent higher level of service and quicker response time. Baxter produced his report in November. The study was paid for by a $15,000 grant from the Franklin County Regional Council of Governments.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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