Greenfield considers change in ambulance providers

Greenfield considers change in ambulance providers

  • The town of Greenfield is considering moving on from Peterborough's ambulance service, with the cost of the service being a primary motivator. Ledger-Transcript file photo—Staff photo by Benji Rosen

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 10:35AM

The town of Greenfield is contemplating a change in ambulance service providers.

Greenfield is currently served by Peterborough’s ambulance service. High and rising costs, however, are prompting Selectmen to look elsewhere.

The board met with representatives from Wilton’s ambulance service on Oct. 25 to discuss a potential switch in services. A proposal was brought forward, but no final decisions have been made at this time.

“It’s an opportunity for us to look at what our options are,” Greenfield Select Board chairman Robert Marshall said Monday. “As you do in your household with managing your budget, we are just trying to meet the needs of our town.”

Marshall said Greenfield had also reached out to Antrim, but they weren’t interested in expanding their service.

Greenfield is anticipated to be on the hook for $78,100.51 for the fiscal year 2019 bill – which for Peterborough runs from July 1 to June 30.

That cost includes Greenfield’s share of the budget shortfall ($473,933 on a $989,707 budget), its share of the 911 portion of the capital improvements plan ($55,000 in fiscal year 2019), and an administrative and assumption of risk fee.

The anticipated increase to Greenfield is up only $88.84 from last year, but is up $45,144.46 from four years ago.

“We’re still doing our homework and collecting information. We expect to be forthcoming soon,” Marshall said.

Peterborough Fire Chief Edmund Walker said costs are shared between Peterborough and the five other towns served by the department – Dublin, Hancock, Greenfield, Francestown and Sharon.

Dublin, Hancock and Francestown are expected to have increases of $3,250.71, $8,138.72, and $2,409.58 respectively, while Peterborough will see an increase of $53,762.77. Sharon is anticipated to see a decrease of $316.97.

Outside of Sharon, every town will pay at least $57,000 in fiscal year 2019, with Peterborough paying almost $300,000. Sharon will pay $13,804.84.

“The dollar amounts people are paying aren’t really that high for the services they are getting,” Walker said, who said the average cost per resident per day is at about 11.5 cents throughout the six towns. “I understand that its a huge amount of money, but we provide a level of service we don’t believe is matched by any service around us.”

Anticipated fees such as payments from insurance providers and people paying their bills are deducted from the budget to calculate how much money has to be raised by each town.

“We are receiving around 53 to 54 percent reimbursement, so for every dollar we bill we get about 53 to 54 cents back. That factors into the budget,” Walker said. “We can’t control our revenue.”

From there, the money is divided between the six towns by a formula that takes each town’s population and annual 911 calls into account.

Greenfield, for example, will pay for 11.92 percent of the service’s budget shortfall and other costs in fiscal year 2019 – the second highest share of the six towns.

Peterborough pays for 58.17 percent of the shortfall due to its much higher call volume and population.

Non-Peterborough towns are also assessed a ten percent administrative fee, derived from Peterborough handling paperwork and other administrative duties, and a five percent assumption of risk fee, which comes into play if the ambulance service is sued.

“We certainly understand the cost,” Walker said. “But none of the other towns could operate a service for what they are paying us.”

Wilton Ambulance Chief Steve Desrosiers said Friday that Wilton hasn’t taken on a new community in more than a decade, but is not opposed to doing so.

“There’s a lot of nuts and bolts to a change like this,” Desrosiers said. “They met with us and were looking for proposals. Where it goes from here, I do not know.”

Wilton’s ambulance service also serves Lyndeborough and Temple.

The service’s operating budget – which is $409,453 in 2018 – is shared by the three towns based on their populations, though that may change in the future.

Desrosiers said he is currently looking into better solutions, which may feature switching to a call volume approach in the future.

Capital expenses are communicated to the service towns, though it is up to them to determine how to raise the money.

Neither ambulance service had a specific answer for what would happen if Greenfield swapped ambulance providers.

“Anytime you have an increase in call volume staffing is always a primary concern,” Desrosiers said. “I have no answers right now though.”

Walker said the potential impact would likely depend on the call volume of the town that pulled out. It wouldn’t be fair to dramatically increase the costs to other towns if one town pulled out, Walker said, but costs still do need to be covered.

“We would have to look at how things play out,” Walker said. “EMS is incredibly fragile around here.”

Greenfield is not the only town looking into other options, as Dublin’s select board told Town Administrator Sherry Miller last week to reach out to other nearby ambulance service providers to see if they would be willing to take the town on as a client.

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com.