2013-08-29 / Paxton News

Ambulance service contract on hold


There has been a delay in renewing Paxton’s contract for Advanced Life Support Services provided by Spencer Rescue and Emergency Squad, Inc., allowing Fire Department Chief Jay Conte to further discuss some terms of the agreement at the request of the Board of Selectmen.

Selectmen have asked Conte to seek a renegotiation of the contract so the town will not lose out on potential income from ambulance calls. They will review the contract again at their meeting on Sept. 9.

The contract with Spencer EMS currently involves Advanced Life Support services and transportation during daytime hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., with a total contracted cost of $150,000 per year.

The company also provides backup for Paxton during the remaining hours from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. when the town’s own Basic Life Support Services are operating and the town needs to transfer to Advanced Life Support services that town personnel are not licensed for. Because the town owns the vehicles and equipment and pays for all supplies that are needed for the ALS service and Spencer EMS supplies the licensed personnel to man the vehicles, the town has traditionally equally shared with the company the receipts generated by the ambulance transports.

Since the first contract in 2007 between Paxton and Spencer EMS, the town’s half of the revenue generated has been used to offset the annual costs of the contract with the company.

Town Administrator Carol Riches said the cost of the contracted services is divided into 12 monthly payments of about $12,500. Receipts generated by the services provided each month are usually enough to cover this contracted amount.

The problem arises, however, when the town receives billing notices for the transports that have gone unpaid, either because they were not billable or because the insurance companies have declined payment. In past years, the town has experienced these issues, which have created a financial hardship for the town.Under the new proposed agreement, the town has negotiated with Spencer EMS a cap to this amount makes the town liable for up to $25,000 annually for unpaid services.

Once the limit is reached, the town is not responsible for any further unpaid or unbillable transports within that year’s time frame. Town officials say it is a protection and allows the town to be able to better fund the ambulance contract.

The drawback to this option that the Board of Selectmen are concerned about is that as soon as the limit is reached the town also no longer receives any income from calls made for the rest of the year. Selectmen would like to see some stipulation in the agreement that allows the town to begin receiving half the receipts again if somehow the unpaid receipts are covered either through late payments or if more than expected transports are made.

The question of whether Paxton could run the entire ambulance service for both Basic Life Support and Advanced Life Support Services was dismissed by Conte, who said the ALS calls generated by Paxton alone do not justify the costs for licensing and paying ALS personnel. He said that the town does generate enough revenue from the BLS services to maintain that.

He also noted a questionable future under the new health care laws that could become cost-detrimental to the town and suggested that it would be safer financially to keep the ALS portion of services under the regional contract. He also suggested that the town reach out to other communities in the area to provide Basic Life Support mutual aid as a way to generate additional income for the town.

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