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Medford Firefighters Union Looking into City-Run Ambulance Option

Union has formed a committee to look into operating city ambulance service.

The Medford firefighters union is in the early stages of creating a proposal to have a city owned and operated ambulance service, union officials said Thursday.

During the City Council's annual review of the fire department's budget, union president Bill O'Brien told city officials that a union committee had been formed to come up with a plan for a fire department-operated ambulance. They hope to bring a proposal to the city next year, O'Brien said.

The city is under contract with private company Armstrong Ambulance Service through 2016, but that wouldn't necessarily preclude the city from also operating its own ambulance, union officials said.

The fire department would only operate one or two ambulances -- Not a big enough operation the whole city -- but it could be a source of significant revenue, O'Brien said.

"In order for it to work, the city must have participating ambulance accompany," O'Brien said. "We wouldn’t take the whole load."

He pointed to the success of Melrose, which began to operate one ambulance of its own last year. It brought in $500,000 in revenue in the first six months, O'Brien said.

City Councilor Paul Camuso said he supported looking into the possibility. The revenue of ambulance providers makes off transporting patients to hospitals is a "hidden secret," he said.

"Everyone says Armstrong is so good to us," Camuso said. "They may be good, they’re not doing because they’re good people, they’re doing it because they’re making money hand over fist.”

Councilor Breanna Lungo-Koehn said she also supported the idea.

“I think we have firefighters who want to do it," she said.

Hulahoop June 18, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Interesting perspective all here have. The reality of this endevor it that it will cost taxpayers quite a bit of money, today, and for many years into the future. Two ambulances will require at least a $2M a year expendeture and likely would result in little more that $1M in revenue. There isn't enough ambulance transports to warrant a third ambulance, but it would need to be available 25% of the time. No private company can afford to have it, the third unit, available without being compensated because the FD ambulance would be collecting most of the revenue the community generates with the first two FD vehicles. In the end, the City has it all now, for FREE, with no liabilities nor any facilites and equipment to manage and maintain. Don't look at Melrose, that is not a fair representation of what a City like Medford will neccessitate, and there is a lot of facets of that system which have not been publicly devulged.
PROF June 24, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Not sure where Hulahoop gets his information. The City of Medford is a very busy community FIRE/EMS wise and contrary to his statement that there aren't enough transports to warrant a 3rd ambulance are incorrect. Armstrong Ambulance is creating a tremendous amount of revenue from the contract with the city. Otherwise it would not be FREE. A fire department run service is different because the fire fighters have a vested interest in serving the citizens of the community, not a service for profit. All revenues are turned back to the city and help provide a valuable resource for the purchase of updated equipment and training.
Jeanne Martin June 24, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Dear Neighbors, There are two ways to measure this initiative 1) does it make the job of firefighter easier? 2) does it make money for the city? Kudos to Mr. Camusso for trying to find ways to bring revenue into the city. Even if we were to break even and but the fire fighters work load was eased as a result, it would be worth it. Respectfully, Jeanne Martin
Daniel DeMaina June 25, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Hey folks, I'm the Melrose Patch editor and since Melrose's revived ambulance service came up here, I figured I'd point you to some background. In advance of re-launching its ambulance service (dormant since 1992), Melrose hired eight new firefighters using federal grants that, of course, eventually run out. From the start, Melrose City Hall officials were adamant that the city needed to run both a basic life support (BLS) ambulance service *and* an advanced life support support (ALS) service in order to generate enough revenue to pay for the cost of the eight additional firefighters and running the ambulance service: http://melrose.patch.com/articles/city-hopes-revived-ambulance-service-supports-expanded-fire-department So far, it looks like they're on track to do that—in fact, Melrose is going to try and start the ALS service running within the coming fiscal 2013 year, instead of fiscal 2014 as originally planned. A little more background—here's an article from last year when Melrose initially set its ambulance rates: http://melrose.patch.com/articles/melrose-ambulance-service-rates-set-by-aldermen
Jarret Bencks June 25, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Thanks Dann.

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