Brattleboro changes EMS buyout plan 10 days before scheduled start

Golden Cross Ambulance, which is expected to provide emergency medical services in Brattleboro, currently operates a two-vehicle station near Westminster. Photo by Kevin O’Connor/VTDigger

BRATTLEBORO — As Vermont ambulance officials continue to ask questions, the city’s Selectboard voted Tuesday to change its transition plan to take over local emergency medical services at the end of July 1 of its nearly 60-year contract with Windham County’s largest provider of emergency medical services.

The board decided this spring with little notice or public debate to drop its association with the private nonprofit organization Rescue Inc. for the for-profit Golden Cross ambulance of Claremont, New Hampshire, which agreed to assist the local fire department in carrying out EMS duties.

While Rescue offered to staff up to six ambulances from its Brattleboro headquarters for $285,600 in the coming fiscal year, Golden Cross said it could cover the city with two vehicles for $75,000. . But that changed on Tuesday night when the Selectboard approved a third Golden Cross ambulance for a three-month free trial.

“After the 90-day period, the city may choose to return to the original service level,” Acting City Manager Patrick Moreland wrote in a memo, “or if these additional assets prove useful, we can upgrade the service level to include these new assets for an additional annual cost of $50,000.

The addendum, which will also expand staffing to the equivalent of two 24-hour shifts, comes as many local residents and state emergency medical services officials continue to raise concerns about the speed and order of the decision-making process.

“How it happened, I have no idea,” Jim Finger, executive director of the Vermont Ambulance Association, told VTDigger of the Brattleboro situation. “I just think, ‘What’s going on?'”

Finger, who is in charge of not only the statewide EMS organization but also the nonprofit Rutland County Regional Ambulance Service, said he had never come across a plan executed at haste over its nearly four decades of work.

“Medicare and Medicaid aren’t paying enough, fuel is going up, employee payrolls are going up, everyone’s running out of certified people — it’s not an easy business,” Finger said. “Anyone doing this should plan ahead for all eventualities and make sure it makes financial sense.”

But Brattleboro, which begins its program this summer, won’t have the results of a recently commissioned $38,721 feasibility study until the fall at the earliest.

The Vermont Health Department’s Office of Emergency Medical Services, which reviewed Golden Cross’s application for several weeks, granted the plan a license on Tuesday.

State Emergency Medical Services Chief Will Moran told VTDigger that “our legal team gave me the go-ahead” just before the selection committee meeting began that evening.

The state’s review encompassed not only the provider’s proposal, but also its plans for sufficient backup in case its ambulances were busy, Moran said.

Brattleboro Fire Chief Leonard Howard told Selectboard last week that the city “will not require a rescue service” but may need to call for mutual aid “during events at scale and periods of extreme call volume”, including multiple alarm fires and mass casualty events and public gatherings.

In this scenario, Brattleboro would first look to Keene, New Hampshire, and Greenfield, Massachusetts — each a half-hour away — before reaching out to smaller outlying communities in Vermont and the two neighboring states, the official said. fire chief.

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