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Resident questions town's ambulance rates


April 25, 2013
By G. Michael Dobbs

news@thereminder.com

EAST LONGMEADOW — An East Longmeadow resident who spent much of his career working in the ambulance industry has questioned the town's contract with American Medical Response (AMR), but Board of Selectmen Chair Paul Federici said he hasn't received any complaints about AMR.

James Jendrysik, who worked in the emergency medial services for 20 years, questioned why the contract with AMR does not establish the rates charged to residents who are using the ambulance service.

Jendrysik contacted the board by letter in February in the hopes of speaking with them prior to the renewal of the contract with AMR, but he received no response to his letter.

Speaking to Reminder Publications last week, he also expressed concerned that AMR does not have a garage facility in the town as a base of operations for its ambulances. He explained the company utilizes "mobile postings," which means an ambulance crew will park their vehicle, letting it idle while waiting for a possible call to service.

"Mobile postings make the statistics look good for response time," Jendrysik said.

The ambulance crews are required to keep the vehicles idle, which Jendrysik charged wastes gas. He said he watched one crew last winter park at the library for four hours.

Jendrysik, who is disabled, started questioning the rates charged for ambulance service when he looked at his own bills. He requested a copy of the contract between the company and the town and could not find any specified rates. He began asking questions in July 2012.

He pointed out that insurance companies do not necessarily cover the full charge for emergency transportation and consumers have to make up the difference.

Federici explained the town went out to bid for ambulance service in 2007, chose AMR and then renewed the contract in 2010. On March 19, the Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to renew the contract for another three years, he said.

"Frankly, we've had no complaints from users," he noted. He added the lack of concerns prompted the board to renew the service.

The contract with East Longmeadow is a joint one with Hampden and Federici said the Board of Selectment had also approved of the renewal.

State law does not require undertaking a bidding process for ambulance services, Federici said.

He affirmed the contract with AMR doesn't have rates of service and said the company simply assures the town it will charge "reasonable rates."

Federici asserted the town has saved $250,000 since 2007 by engaging AMR and not having a municipal ambulance service.

Jendrysik had hoped for a public hearing about AMR, its rates and service prior to the contract being renewed.

"[Residents] have the right to know," he said.

Ron Cunningham, the marketing communications officer for AMR, explained the rates for East Longmeadow are the same rates AMR charges other communities in Western Massachusetts for 911-based service. He said they are based on rates in the marketplace.

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