PITTSFIELD - Central Berkshire Ambulance, one of two ambulance companies operating in the city, ended its operations on Wednesday night, leaving its 25 employees jobless.
Central Berkshire Ambulance opened in July 2008 after organizers decided there was an adequate need for a provider to fill the void left by the closing of American Medical Response in 2007. Administrators invested more than $800,000 in equipment improvements since then, but with a lack of call volume and an inability to land a potential 911 responder contract with the city, the decision was made to close, according to Jim Regan, the company s general manager.
Regan said informal surveys of local health care providers and city officials done in advance of Central Berkshire Ambulance s opening showed overwhelming support for a second company to compete with the city s existing provider, County Ambulance.
But Regan, who had more than a dozen years of experience operating ambulance companies, said the call volume was less than half of what had expected, leading to a revenue shortage that made operations untenable.
Regan blamed Berkshire Medical Center for the lack of business, saying the health care provider showed "absolutely no support" for the operation.
"We were virtually locked out of BMC," said Regan. "I d never seen anything like that in my life."
BMC Disputes Claims
Michael Leary, a BMC spokesman, disputed those claims. The hospital, Leary said, has nothing to do with emergency dispatches for ambulance services, while clinical staff at BMC have invited all local ambulance companies to present what services they provide.
"We certainly don t have any stipulated ambulance services here at BMC," Leary said.
Regan also placed blame on the city s Ambulance Review Committee, which has been considering whether there should be one or two providers for the city and recently chose to have an open-bid process.
Central Berkshire Ambulance was the third choice in that process, behind County Ambulance and Wilmington-based Action Ambulance.
Regan called the decision to leave the door open to outside providers, as well as the year and a half that has been spent making a decision, "ridiculous." The cost of continuing to pursue the city contract, he added, was the final step in the decision to close the business.
Mayor James M. Ruberto did not comment on Regan s judgment of the committee, but said there is no timeline on any decision, and any decision will be based on the results of the bid process.
"We are in the process and we ll have more conversation on if we should have one or two providers," said Ruberto. "And if we do [choose two], clearly it will be the two with the highest grades for quality, care and experience."