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Pittsfield, Mass., AMR Laying Off 35, Closing

PITTSFIELD -- American Medical Response, one of two emergency medical response companies in Pittsfield, will close its local operation as of Dec. 31.

At a meeting on Tuesday, the company distributed layoff notices to its 35 full- and part-time employees. According to one employee, who wished to remain unnamed, the company was in the midst of contract negotiations with local union officials at the time.

Even though the city of Pittsfield has two emergency response companies handling calls, the city has nevertheless had to seek emergency aid from neighboring towns when crews are spread too thin.

But Pittsfield acting Fire Chief James Sullivan said the loss of AMR emergency response teams should not affect the city s ability to respond to emergencies, as the other company contracted by the city, County Ambulance, is working to add equipment and personnel.

I believe County is adding vehicles and personnel to meet the anticipated need, he said.

According to David Pelletier, general manager of the Western Massachusetts division of AMR, the company has been working in the Pittsfield area for more than 10 years, with a dispatch garage on West Housatonic Street.

By phone from his Springfield office, Pelletier attributed the closure to declining reimbursements from health insurance companies and Medicare and to the increased expense of doing business.

He said the closing should not reflect poorly on local AMR employees.

We re very proud of the employees up there, he said. They are hard workers and good people.

He said the company will be meeting with union representatives soon to discuss severance details.

Declining reimbursements caused revenue declines. Expenses grew to exceed the income, which makes it hard to run a business unit, Pelletier said.

The ambulances will be redeployed throughout our company, he added.

Another AMR employee, who also requested anonymity, said that many of the laid-off workers are applying for jobs at County Ambulance and have had favorable results. He declined to elaborate.

Brian Andrews, president of County Ambulance Service, said his company is indeed moving to pick up the slack left when AMR leaves.

AMR employees are being interviewed for at least a dozen full-time openings and a few part-time slots, he said.

AMR closing makes us a bigger company over here, Andrews said. We know there is going to be a void, so we ve already started the process buying more vehicles and interviewing their employees.

The family-owned County Ambulance, which has been working in Pittsfield since 1982, also has a new ambulance unit on the way and is in the process of purchasing others, although it is too early to determine exactly how many they will need.

The decline in reimbursements from insurance companies and Medicare, Andrews said, has been an issue for the industry, but hasn t had as much of an effect on County because we re a small company, and we don t have a lot of that big corporate overhead.

To reach Scott Stafford:sstafford@berkshireeagle.com , (413) 496-6240.

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