NEWBURYPORT — American Medical Response recently told city officials it is pulling out of its Boston Way location, which is forcing the city to rethink its long-term and short-term emergency response needs.
Mayor Donna Holaday said yesterday AMR will continue to answer emergency and non-emergency 911 medical calls in the short term, having come to an understanding with fire officials to perhaps leave a full ambulance team at the Greenleaf Street fire headquarters.
But with the city’s contract with AMR running out next June, officials are looking at a long-term solution.
“We just need to look at the big picture,” Holaday said.
In August, AMR New England general manager Brendan McNiff announced it would be closing various locations in the Merrimack Valley after wage concession negotiations with the National Emergency Medical Services Association union failed. To save money, AMR is consolidating its dispatching services to one central location in Natick and cutting dozens of positions.
“Unfortunately, the union declined to explore the possibility of rollbacks that would have minimized the loss of positions to the impacted areas,” McNiff wrote in an August email to affected customers. AMR Newburyport employs approximately 45 paramedics and EMTs and handles about 13,750 calls annually.
Reached yesterday, McNiff said all dispatchers and ambulances would be removed from Boston Way within the next two months.
McNiff said union concessions were sought after Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of the largest health care providers in the state, changed the way it reimbursed AMR and other ambulance service providers for trips.
According to McNiff, in an attempt to cajole AMR into a more advantageous deal, BCBS decided to send reimbursement checks directly to patients, who would then use them to pay off ambulance expenses. But McNiff said many patients hold onto the checks, leaving AMR with a budget shortfall. He estimated that $250,000 in net dollars are still in the hands of patients since BCBS altered its reimbursement practices roughly 18 months ago,