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Connecticut Town Weighs Costs of Paramedic Program

NORTH BRANFORD -- Now that the town has gone out to bid for a paramedic program, it must choose between a service that's cost- effective and one that's more efficient, or opt not to have one at all, officials said.

Officials put out a request in June for proposals from paramedic services licensed to operate fly cars, also called intercept vehicles, and received one bid from American Medical Response before the bid period closed Wednesday. A fly car is staffed by one paramedic, is stationed in town and is ready to meet an ambulance at an emergency scene or along the way to the hospital.

Since the town currently only contracts out for emergency medical technicians, it's considering hiring paramedics. A program would start no earlier than January.

"My main goal is to provide a higher level of advanced life support care to citizens," Fire Chief William Seward said Friday. "How we do it and who does it is based upon money. But the citizens deserve a higher level of care."

Currently, Fire Department volunteers or emergency medical technicians hired through Vintech Management Services are dispatched when someone dials 911, and paramedics from another service are called for advanced care. EMTs wait for a paramedic to arrive, or begin driving to a hospital and pull over when they meet up with one who stabilizes the patient.

One option the town has in developing its own paramedic program is upgrading its contract with Vintech and putting one EMT and one paramedic on an ambulance together. Vintech did not submit a bid because it's only licensed to provide personnel and not fly cars that paramedics drive to emergencies, Seward said.

Though the set-up is the cheaper of the two services being considered, it would not allow the paramedic to leave the scene if he or she is not needed, Seward said.

An agreement with Vintech providing both emergency medical technicians and paramedics would cost $160,000 annually, Finance Director Anthony Esposito Jr. said. It would also require the town to purchase advanced life support equipment for around $50,000 and continue using volunteers, according to Seward. The existing Vintech contract for EMTs costs the town about $50,000 annually after revenue from ambulance fees is collected.

The alternative is paying American Medical Response to run a fly car. American Medical Response would charge $190,000 for six months of service from January to July, and almost $400,000 for a full year. The amount of revenue from fees in this scenario is still being calculated.

This arrangement allows a paramedic to leave the scene if he or she is not needed and attend to other calls, which is why "it's the most efficient way" to run a program, Seward said.

If the town contracts with American Medical Response, it would not need to purchase equipment or maintain the fly car. However, it would need to continue staffing its ambulances with emergency medical technicians hired through Vintech and volunteers, Seward said.

Mayor Anthony Candelora said he would confirm which option is preferred by a Town Council subcommittee studying the issue after the group meets this month. He said the subcommittee also needs to determine how the program will be funded.


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