Although the town of South Windsor is soliciting proposals from ambulance providers to gauge the cost to add Advanced Life Support services, changing the town’s current ambulance service won’t be that easy.
The town has for years had a rocky relationship with its current ambulance provider, the South Windsor Ambulance Corps. But state statute provides only limited circumstances allowing a municipality to remove its ambulance service.
One scenario requires that a municipality must petition the Department of Public Health commissioner to remove an ambulance service provider from its designated service area, but only if:
1. at any time based on an allegation that an emergency exists and the safety, health, and welfare of the primary service area's citizens are jeopardized by the responder's performance or;
2. not more than once every three years on the basis of unsatisfactory responder performance under the local EMS plan established by the town and associated agreements or contracts.
According to South Windsor Town Manager Matthew Galligan, the town is working on two fronts. First, the town is looking into petitioning to have South Windsor Ambulance Corps removed as its primary service provider. Second, the town has spoken to its state representatives to support one of several measures proposed in the state legislature to change the law to enable municipalities to choose their ambulance service providers.
“The Town Council appears committed to upgrading to Advanced Life Support,” Galligan said in a telephone interview.
The South Windsor Ambulance Corps has been the town’s ambulance provider for decades. However, its relationship with the town has become strained in recent years due in no small part to SWAC only providing basic - or EMT - service, despite several requests from the Town Council to have the service upgraded to Advance Life Support.
In March 2012, SWAC President Larry Gorman said that it would cost the town between $500,000 and $700,000 to upgrade the service.
But, without elaborating, Galligan said at a Town Council meeting in December that the town can obtain ALS for no additional cost.
The town currently has what is known as “paramedic intercept” in which a South Windsor Ambulance meets up with an advanced life support ambulance en route to the hospital to provide advanced life support, Gorman said in an interview over the summer.
The issue was brought into sharp focus upon the death of Hannah Patrie, a 15-year-old girl who collapsed at South Windsor High School during a conditioning exercise at a dance camp last summer. Patrie lost consciousness and died.
One of the questions surrounding Patrie’s death was the response time of the town’s first responders. An Aetna ambulance that is part of the Ambulance Service of Manchester eventually brought Patrie to the hospital about an hour after the initial call came in.
According to police and Gorman, South Windsor Ambulance Corps did not respond to the Patrie call because one of the two ambulances belonging to the SWAC was out on another call, while the other was not on the road because it was being serviced.
Other issues with South Windsor Ambulance Corps have also started to boil over with the town.
Town Councilor Keith Yagaloff has cited problems concerning SWAC vehicles being out of service, the failure of SWAC to sign a rental agreement and to pay rent for the space it uses at the town’s new firehouse and SWAC double billing patients for calls to which the Ambulance Service of Manchester also responds.
SWAC, for its part, responded to the Town Council’s request for a request for proposals for ALS by sending a letter signed by the board of directors to the town stating that a consultant should be called in to conduct a study advising of the “Advanced Life Support deployment options which will best suit the community.”
“Simply saying that the Town wants to have Advanced Life Support services based in the town is not enough; there are a multitude of possible deployment models which exist for the provision of Advanced Life Support services,” the letter states.
At its most recent meeting, the Town Council said that SWAC needed to upgrade both its level of service and its vehicles.
"They've served our town well, but the times have changed ... it's time to evolve," Councilor Saud Anwar said during a meeting Feb. 4, referring to the increasing number of seniors in South Windsor.