Hadley, Amherst to talk ambulance service

Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

HADLEY — Hadley officials will soon begin negotiations for Amherst Fire Department ambulances to continue providing medical service for the town.

The Select Board voted 4-0 on Feb. 21, following a recommendation from the Ambulance Study Work Group, to pursue a new two-year contract with the town of Amherst that would also include a one-year renewal period.

“We would like to see how that negotiation process goes,” Select Board Chairwoman Molly Keegan said.

Hadley has been paying $145,000 in an assessment to Amherst for handling about 1,000 calls a year.

The decision to pursue a new deal with Amherst comes after an extensive process that began last fall when Hadley officials issued a request for proposal to identify a public or private vendor to handle the town’s medical calls.

Action EMS, which has a location at the corner of Route 9 and Cross Path Road and provides service for Holyoke, was the only valid response to the town’s advertisement. Amherst and Pioneer Valley EMS/MedStar in Northampton did not submit bids to handle ambulance service.

Keegan noted that the negotiations with Amherst will include resolving lingering concerns with some aspects of the relationship.

“We want to make sure we’re getting the best service we can for the residents of Hadley,” Keegan said.

One of these issues is communication, including details about the exact number of calls in Hadley, the nature of the service provided during those calls and the response time. This information is critical to know whether the service is continually improving.

“We’ve had difficulty getting regular reporting that was called for in the original contract,” Keegan said.

Another issue, Keegan said, is dialogue around long-range planning for Amherst Fire Department staffing, with a report issued last year indicating the need for additional firefighter/paramedics, and capital investments that could include a new fire station in South Amherst.

Keegan said negotiating with Amherst doesn’t mean that Hadley is ready to abandon Action EMS.

“We were very, very impressed with Action EMS, I think surprisingly so,” Keegan said. Its proposal included having an ambulance stationed in Hadley and joint training with Hadley firefighters. Because of the more in-depth service, Action EMS had a proposal beginning at $295,000 on July 1.

Select Board member Joyce Chunglo said Action EMS should understand that its offer is not yet being turned down and that an arrangement could happen if an agreement isn’t reached with Amherst.

“It’s not a done deal with Action EMS,” Chunglo said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.