, Newburyport, MA

October 23, 2012

City-run ambulance would boost bottom line

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

In the Oct. 3 edition of The Daily News, Mayor Holaday said it makes no sense for our city to run its own ambulance service. That is her opinion and she is welcome to it, but I’ve been researching municipal ambulance services for over five years. In that time, I have contacted more than 40 EMS heads across the state, and every single one has favored a municipal ambulance service. Why? The answer is simple: the bottom line.

In these tough economic times, the earned revenue generated by a well-run ambulance service is significant. In Massachusetts, more than 240 municipalities currently own and operate their own ambulance services — and this number is growing by an average of three municipalities each year.

In FY 2010 the Newburyport Fire Department responded to 13 structural fires and 1,085 medical aid calls. Emergency Medical Services account for approximately 70 percent of all fire department responses. Under Newburyport’s current contract with the company American Medical Response, the city is reimbursed $38,894 per year in exchange for two firefighters (operating a $500,000 truck) to assist the AMR first responders with nearly 1,100 calls. This reimbursement equals $106.56 per day.

Across the river, Amesbury has chosen a different course. In nine years, the Amesbury ambulance service has generated more than $5 million ($5,301,024) — an average of $589,000 per year. In FY 2012, the ambulance in Amesbury generated $2,134.50 per day.

In Newburyport, we could use this revenue to: (1) help cover the cost of our new school and restore foreign language teachers to our classrooms; (2) fund the construction of a long overdue senior and community center; (3) and help pay back the loan we used to revitalize our water treatment plant.

K.E. McCullough, deputy chief of administration for the Miami Fire Department in Florida, put it this way: “The fire service is the logical organization to provide EMS care. The personnel are trained to function under emergency conditions. Good communication systems already exist. The existing structure is ideal for supervision and command … soon an EMS background will be imperative for (all) top fire administrators.” The oldest and least progressive municipal officials, he added, suffer from “tunnel vision” — to the detriment of the citizens and the communities they serve.

I therefore encourage you to contact the mayor and your city councilor. Ask them to stand with those progressive municipal leaders who’ve been persuaded by the overwhelming preponderance of evidence in favor of a municipal ambulance service — not because it’s the easy decision, but because it’s the right one.

George Roaf