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REMS, Mohawk compete for contract with town

Thursday, December 5, 2013
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— Rotterdam's new ambulance provider will be selected from proposals submitted by a pair of companies that are essentially offering the town the same level of service at no cost to taxpayers.

Rotterdam Emergency Medical Services Inc., the local not-for-profit company that has historically served as the town's primary provider, has offered to keep four paramedic-staffed ambulances based in the town with at least two on call 24 hours a day. Mohawk Ambulance, the Schenectady-based for-profit company that has vied for the town's emergency medical services contract for more than a decade, is offering to base two rigs staffed with paramedics in the town 24 hours a day, with a minimum of one always ready to be dispatched.

Both companies are offering a five-year contract to provide global positioning satellite-equipped ambulances to the town without subsidy. And neither company is offering payments of any kind to the town, meaning the services pitched in the two proposals aren't substantively different.

Representatives from each ambulance company will be given 20 minutes to stump for their proposals during a special 5:30 p.m. agenda meeting at Town Hall today. Board members will then get a chance to ask questions about the proposals in advance of a meeting next week, during which the future of the town's emergency medical services will be decided.

"I couldn't guess who will be awarded this contract," town Supervisor Harry Buffardi said.

The public, however, will need to wait until next week to weigh in on the decision. Buffardi called for the agenda meeting specifically because its format doesn't include a public comment period. Buffardi said the purpose is to allow board members to gather as much information as they feel necessary before casting a vote on an emotionally charged issue.

He said the public will get a chance to comment on the proposals before the vote during the board's regular meeting Wednesday.

"We want to do this for our examination," he said of the presentations today.

Board member Robert Godlewski said both companies will have to explain how much their services will cost residents using their ambulances. Godlewski, the deputy supervisor when the town awarded the ambulance contract to REMS in 2011, said he based his support for the not-for-profit company on its lower fee structure for service.

"To me it's about what you're going to charge the users of that service when you know two-thirds of them are on Medicare," he said. "The only reason REMS got the contract two years ago was because they were cheaper to the taxpayers than Mohawk ."

REMS' proposal states patients utilizing its ambulances will save an average of $250 per call when compared to what would be billed by a for-profit company. The proposal also indicates REMS has worked out agreements with its patients that have allowed them to gradually pay off bills, sometimes at a cost of only $5 per month.

"We are committed to keeping our expenses low, passing on that savings to our patients and working with patients to meet their needs," the company states in its proposal, which includes references from the chiefs of all eight fire districts serving Rotterdam and state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara.

Securing the contract will also help preserve jobs for 50 local workers now employed by REMS and the county's mutual aid plan, the proposal states. Without an agreement to remain the town's primary ambulance provider, the company would face almost certain dissolution, meaning the loss of jobs and the elimination of rigs that now back up other area companies during times of need.

REMS' proposal also indicates its absorption of the town's recently dissolved paramedic program means it will fulfill the recommendation of a Holdsworth Pelton study in 2007. The EMS and fire department consulting firm suggested the best path for the town's ambulance service was to merge its not-for-profit ambulance company with the town-operated paramedics.

Mohawk 's pitch highlights its large, fluid fleet of 33 ambulances operating around the Capital Region, including 12 rigs equipped for paramedics. At peak times, at least 26 ambulances are in operation throughout the area, meaning some can be diverted to the town in times of need.

"These ambulances are fluid resources that are moved to meet unexpected surges in the volume of emergency medical service calls," states the proposal from Mohawk , which received references from a number of area officials, including Ellis Hospital's chief operating officer, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy and Glenville town Supervisor Chris Koetzle.

Mohawk also mentions its ongoing relationship with other communities in Schenectady County. The company is the primary ambulance provider for Schenectady, Glenville, Scotia, Princetown and parts of Niskayuna.

Mohawk is also offering "strict response time compliance" and accurate monthly reporting to the town. The company indicates it is poised to purchase a property less than one mile from the town's Five Corners intersection.

Mohawk 's proposal also indicates the company will hire any qualified emergency medical technicians and paramedics from the town or REMS. In addition, the company pledged to purchase the paramedic equipment owned by the town and to provide CPR training to town workers at no cost.

 
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