Rotterdam Emergency Medical Services transporting few patients
ROTTERDAM Calls for Rotterdam Emergency Medical Services Inc. have dropped to a trickle since the town abruptly stopped dispatching its ambulances last month.
The not-for-profit ambulance has answered 27 calls over 18 days, a pace that is a roughly 80 percent drop from its historical call volume. Though expected, this precipitous decline has already forced the company to essentially shutter its facility on Princetown Road and reduce its overall staffing level.
Workers with the company explained their plight to state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, as he toured the main station on Cardiff Road on Monday afternoon. The freshman legislator said he decided to visit after his offices were inundated with calls and emails from residents concerned about the future of the company, which is one of two vying for Rotterdam’s ambulance service contract.
Santabarbara has advocated for REMS in the past, having sent a letter to help expedite the state Department of Health’s approval of the company’s controlled substance license and serving as a reference in its proposal submitted to the town last week. He again spoke in favor of REMS on Monday, calling it “a very important asset to the community” and questioning why the town would contemplate a different company.
“I don’t see a reason to change the service at this point,” he said.
Mohawk Ambulance, the for-profit company shooting for the contract, has been dispatched to most emergencies in the town since mid-November and has answered 138 calls. REMS is dispatched by the town only when the caller specifically requests its ambulances.
Members of the Town Board are expected to select one of the companies during their meeting Wednesday. They reviewed both proposals and asked questions of the two companies during a lengthy meeting last week.
Both Mohawk and REMS are offering a five-year contract to provide GPS-equipped paramedic-level ambulances to the town without subsidy. Neither company is offering payments of any kind to the town, meaning the services pitched in the two proposals aren’t substantively different.
But there are significant differences in the details, said Dean Romano, a member of REMS’ board of directors. Among them are the service charges.
Romano said REMS charges patients $550 for basic life support service and $750 for the first level of advanced life support service provided by paramedics. Once a paramedic is providing care, additional charges can accrue.
Mohawk charges patients a fee of $685 for basic life support services and $1,053 for advanced life support service. But these costs are primarily footed by insurance companies and not patients, said Mike Bohne, a spokesman for the company.
“Mohawk’s historical data shows 95 percent of patients it has served in the town of Rotterdam were insured,” he said. “Mohawk works with patients on payment plans or hardship waivers when needed.”
REMS is also raising questions about how the process of dispatching Mohawk will impact response times. Mohawk isn’t permitted to be dispatched on the county’s fire radio system — the frequency used to tone out all fire departments outside of the city of Schenectady — meaning dispatchers with the town must call the company directly; the city of Schenectady has its own frequency that does allow the Fire Department to dispatch Mohawk.
Mohawk claims the situation hasn’t and won’t pose any problem, even when the county’s Unified Communications Center comes online.
Bohne said calls in Rotterdam are relayed to Mohawk’s dispatch center, from which they’re broadcast to ambulances in the field.
“Mohawk’s Schenectady County-based paramedic ambulances are equipped with radio equipment that is capable of communicating with other emergency responders who are using the county’s fire radio system,” he said.