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Costs of regional EMS staffing options detailed

SUNDERLAND — The difference between two proposed staffing options for a 24-hour regional ambulance service based in southern Franklin County is four full-time staff members, or about $124,215.69 in benefits.

At Monday’s biweekly meeting of the EMS working group, Sunderland Fire Chief Robert Ahearn provided his draft staffing plan as a second option to Deerfield’s EMS Director Matt Russo’s proposal.

Both plans are designed to staff a fully integrated municipal regional paramedic-level ambulance service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the towns of Deerfield, Whately and Sunderland.

Russo proposed starting the paramedic service off in its first year with a full-time professional force of eight staff members, which he suggested would help avoid having part-time workers split between the regional service and another second job.

Russo’s draft proposal includes four full-time paramedics and four full-time basic EMTs — two of which would serve in a management capacity — for the first primary ambulance.

The ready reserve, or backup, ambulance would pay on-call paramedics and EMTs $64 for an eight-hour shift to stand by and wait for a call. Once the on-call staff responds to an actual call, the pay increases to the $19-per-hour regular pay.

Total labor costs to staff the primary ambulance under Russo’s plan is $463,607.67.

Staffing the ready reserve ambulance would cost $216,160.

Total labor costs for both the primary and ready reserve ambulance would be $679,767.67, while labor costs plus benefits amounts to $832,761.55.

Ahearn’s proposal

The proposal by Ahearn takes a more gradual approach, starting off with four full-time staff members. Ahearn’s plan allows the towns to ramp up the service over the first three years. The end goal would be to match Russo’s plan.

Ahearn’s draft proposal includes two full-time paramedics and two full-time basic EMTs.

On-call paramedics and EMTs staffing the ready-reserve ambulance would receive a $50 stipend over an eight-hour shift. Like Russo’s proposal, the activated pay would be $19 per hour.

The total labor cost for the primary ambulance would be $392,023.75, while those costs for both ambulances would be $604,271.50. Labor costs and benefits would amount to $708,545.86.

The major cost difference between the two proposals is $124,215.69 in benefits. Russo’s proposal costs more because it includes benefits for its eight staff members compared to four staff members.

Under Russo’s plan, the selectmen would only have to go to the townspeople for one sum to fund the EMS budget. But under Ahearn’s plan to gradually increase the staffing levels, the selectmen would have to go back to the townspeople year to year to ask for more money as they increase the staffing.

The EMS working group, made up of members of the boards of selectmen in Sunderland, Whately and Deerfield and their town administrators, did not decide yet which staffing method they will choose.

The working group continued the discussion until the next meeting on Aug. 19 at the Deerfield Town Hall. At that time, the town leaders will focus on whether to provide paramedic-level staffing for the ready reserve ambulance and whether on-call staff would respond to the station or wait at their homes.

The town leaders are getting closer to nailing down the details of the regional ambulance service.

The selectmen are aiming for a September completion date when they hope to hold special town meetings to ask townspeople to pay for the service. If approved, the start-up date is proposed for January.

On Thursday, Deerfield leaders will meet with the South Deerfield Fire District Prudential Committee to get a final answer on whether the regional ambulance could be housed at the fire station off Routes 5 and 10, and if so, at what cost.

On Friday, Whately Town Administrator Lynn Sibley will meet with Greg Pronevitz, the executive director of the Western Massachusetts Regional Library building at the Whately Industrial Complex to see if there’s potential for the towns to house the ambulance service at the library building.

Some of the town leaders, including Sibley, Sunderland Selectman Scott Bergeron and Ahearn visited the building last week and indicated the site had potential to house an ambulance service.

The selectmen also agreed to send off the proposed agreement for the town lawyer’s preliminary review this week.

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

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