South Windsor Faces Challenges in Attempt to Change Ambulance Service

Town must follow the state statute and petition to have South Windsor Ambulance Corps removed as its provider.

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.

Pam Petersen February 13, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Thank you Town Council....I've been waiting years to have them upgrade - they need to be sensitive to the needs of the customer base. This town has been in dire need of ALS services for decades and with the influx of numerous 55+ housing communities, it will continue to grow. Why have they "refused" to sign a lease agreement? If they "refuse" to do so, why can't the town have them removed from the town building? No squatters rights here - they make enough money to pay a fair rent, just look at the posting of their last 5 tax returns. I say no more free rides, pay up or move out!
Fran James February 13, 2013 at 11:20 PM
South Windsor Ambulance Corp.is a non-profit organization. What will they be replace with a profit making organization. Who on the board will profit from this change? Who will pick up the tab for this upgrade? I think a third party consultant is needed to access the need and the cost. We have people on the board and in town with champagne taste, and a "Kool-Aid" budget.
Pam Petersen February 14, 2013 at 01:18 AM
Fran it DOES NOT cost the town anything to provide EMS services, either BLS (SW) or ALS (Manchester Amb). The EMS providers bill either the patients or their Insurance carrier directly. The cost to upgrade to ALS service is the burden of the ALS provider, they must pay for the advanced level of care and the extra medications and equipment they carry. Approximately 70% of all 911 medical calls in town are considered ALS calls. Both SW and Manch Amb have to come to town to treat the patient, resulting in 2 bills to either the patient or their Insurance carrier. THE TOWN DOES NOT PAY FOR ANY OF THESE SERVICES. In fact, SW Ambulance has been living off our "champagne taste and Kool-Aid budget" for years. They have not paid for gas, insurance or rent. So where do you think the money goes when they bill the patient for BLS care? Obviously NOT into keeping both ambulances on the road as it has been proven that more times than not, one of the ambulances is out for repair. The money goes to paying salaries of the employees of SW Ambulance, including the hefty salaries to the Administration, kindly refer to Keith Yagaloff's link to SW Ambulance's tax returns for the last 5 years. What if your loved one needed a paramedic due to heart attack, stroke, car accident or diabetic problem and ONLY SW Ambulance was available and all you could do was sit and wait for an ALS provider to arrive to help your loved one, how would you feel then?
DLB January 21, 2014 at 04:00 PM
The best thing is to let SWAC perform at the paramedic level. There are already paramedics on SWAC's ambulances, but cannot practice because of the Town Coucil. They are the closest medics. Let them practice. They are NOT the old SWAC employees. They are experienced medics who are active in other towns. ASM is owned by ECHN. The town manager and mayor are on the board at ECHN. This smells of dirty politicians and is a huge conflict of interest if you ask me.
Sean February 11, 2014 at 09:44 AM
The state rules against towns deciding ad-hoc to change EMS providers are set up to prevent politics from entering into the decision. That is, if SW Ambulance has the service area, and the town first selectman or his brother is a board member at a for-profit service and stands to profit from gaining the service contract, the current rules would prohibit that. Instead, the town has to show reason to remove SW ambulance. It is suspicious that "the town manager and mayor are on the board at ECHN." SW ambulance has paramedics on staff, so the service could provide paramedics if permitted to. The oft-referred to incident where a patient died after falling ill at SW H.S. seemed also to involve ASM not having a unit available, either, which is why an out-of-area Aetna unit responded, so ASM is as guilty as SW ambulance for not having an available vehicle in service in the area. And. ASM has the ALS responsibilities for SW currently, so they had an obligation to provide service. The solution is not to give the towns the opportunity to change ambulance providers based on political whim. The solution is that the town be required to present a case that their ambulance provider is not providing the service to the state, a third party, which keeps personal gain and nepotism out of local health care. In her reply, Pam seems to suggest that in getting fuel and quarters for free, SW Ambulance is doing something illegal or misspending money recovered from insurance and patients. Such a situation would be reason for a criminal investigation and a reason the town of South Windsor could use to persuade the state to relieve SW ambulance of the service area. So, the town such a case should be made using the current rules. Otherwise, cost of fuel and office space are merely items to be negotiated and really have nothing to do with SW Ambulance quality of service. (Is there a comparison of ASM salaries to SW salaries? Do SW EMTs make significantly more than ASM ones, how about leadership pay comparisons?) Anyway, there is a good mechanism in place for towns to replace their ambulance service provider that removes the whims of politics, nepotism, and corruption from the decision. Use that mechanism.


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