NAUGATUCK — The already strained relationship between the borough and Naugatuck Ambulance took a turn for the worse last week when the emergency services provider abruptly changed its response services.
As of Saturday, the ambulance association removed its “fly car” service between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. The service enables paramedics to drive to and from emergency calls in their own vehicles. The lack of a “fly car” means a paramedic has to go to calls in a traditional ambulance and cannot leave the scene to take a simultaneous call in another location. The new plan calls for a paramedic from Waterbury to respond when the Naugatuck paramedic is tied up.
That does not sit well with Naugatuck officials. On behalf of the borough, attorney Ned Fitzpatrick wrote to the state Department of Public Health’s Office of Emergency Medical Services, or OEMS, to express concern over the recent changes to paramedic services.
“This unilateral action by Naugatuck Ambulance was taken without significant prior notice to the borough and its residents, thereby creating a potentially dangerous emergency situation and leaving the community with a diminished level of emergency medical service,” the letter states, adding that the change is arbitrary and leaves the borough without any remedy and it “puts the safety, health and welfare of the community at serious risk,” the letter states.
Fitzpatrick also writes that the actions are in violation of OEMS regulations that “require a licensee to apply for a new license or certificate to OEMS, in writing and prior to the implementation of a change of service.”
The letter, dated Jan. 30, asks the department to take immediate action “to prevent this unlawful and precipitous change in service.” As of Saturday, OEMS has not gotten involved.
Attorney Dominick Thomas, who represents Naugatuck Ambulance, a nonprofit organization, said his client has done nothing wrong.
“It would be nice if they knew what they were talking about,” he said of borough officials in response to the letter. “This is just a change in personnel mainly motivated by the fact that Naugatuck hasn’t paid a dime to Naugatuck Ambulance for at least a year and a half. … This is just a change in structure in how they operate, and the level of service is not being affected whatsoever.”
He said he plans to respond to the letter this week by writing his own letter to OEMS.
Borough officials and Naugatuck ambulance have been at odds for at least two years. Officials say they initially became concerned when Naugatuck Ambulance wanted to eliminate paramedic service in Naugatuck. Naugatuck Ambulance owns Primary Service Area Responder, or PSAR, status for Naugatuck. The borough has explored the option of changing services, and has received bids from other companies that are cheaper than what Naugatuck Ambulance have offered. However, because Naugatuck Ambulance owns the PSAR, it is very hard for Naugatuck to change EMT providers.
The borough used to pay Naugatuck Ambulance $147,000 a year for EMS coverage, but stopped paying more than year ago when the contract expired. The two sides have not been able to come to an agreement on a new contract.
Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi, who oversees the Naugatuck EMT Oversight Committee, has been speaking with state officials, trying to change policies on how Connecticut oversees PSAR statuses for municipalities.
“This has nothing to do with who is providing EMS service in Naugatuck,” she said. “It’s ensuring that our community’s health and welfare is being served at the highest level at all times.”