Rochester Selectmen debate merits of in-house ambulance service

Apr 20, 2016

Selectman Rich Nunes is concerned that the town’s ambulance service is too expensive, and on Tuesday night he suggested looking into a private service.

Nunes cited net costs to the town as about $200,000 for fiscal year 2015 compared to about half of that in fiscal year 2014. He has already sent a letter to STAT Dartmouth, a private ambulance company, that said it is looking to expand its services.

“I’m just looking for options,” Nunes said.

He also questioned the number of people who respond to an incident, saying three or four people shouldn’t respond to every accident.

Selectmen Brad Morse, however, said Nunes was reading the financial numbers incorrectly and that it was inappropriate to have the conversation without Fire and EMS Chief Scott Weigel present.

Morse, who has worked as an on-call firefighter, said he has seen towns switch from in-house to privatized ambulance services with negative results.

“If the numbers were explained properly, you’d find out that the cost is not bad at all,” he said.

Select Chair Naida Parker said it wouldn’t hurt to look into the cost of a private service, but also said she doubted a company could provide the immediate coverage that the town needs.

If there is a heart attack or a serious injury, “I don’t want those response times to be a half an hour until they can get an ambulance out here,” said Parker. “I think we would find ourselves having to bear the expense of having some local portion of basic service, which is still going to cost us ambulance and staff time to maintain it here.”

She added, “I would be extremely reluctant to take it out of town unless we could see there was one hundred percent coverage in the town.”

Morse suggested adding the fire chief to an upcoming agenda. Nunes, on the other hand, said it may not be necessary if he can get sufficient financial and staffing numbers.