Officials testify in ambulance case

NAUGATUCK — Saying that the Naugatuck Ambulance Association has created an “emergency situation” in the borough, Naugatuck officials will attempt to persuade lawmakers to allow municipalities more flexibility in changing emergency medical service providers.

Leading the charge, Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi will testify at a hearing before the Public Health Committee Wednesday in Hartford. She will ask the committee to consider allowing municipalities to have a say in who is granted a primary (EMT) service area responder, or PSAR, designation, which gives exclusive rights to the PSAR holder to provide EMT service in a given area.

Currently, the Naugatuck Ambulance Association holds the PSAR for Naugatuck. That decision was handed down by the state more than 20 years ago.

Now, Naugatuck officials are not satisfied with the level of service being provided by Naugatuck Ambulance, and they want to consider changing EMT providers. They can’t do that, however, because Naugatuck Ambulance holds the trump card in the situation: the PSAR.

Rossi said it makes no sense for municipalities to be granted no say in who provides such a vital service for the community.

“Ideally, we would have liked to have had the PSARs returned to municipalities,” she said. “But our viewpoint was this was a great first step; it seemed to be very fair, equitable compromise.”

Last year, state officials created a task force to study the PSAR designation process. Rossi says she is concerned that the task force will not include language in its final report that states municipalities should be included in the PSA distribution process.

In her written testimony, which is signed by Fire Chief Ken Hanks and Mayor Robert Mezzo, Rossi writes:

“The PSAR system was created with good intentions to remove the selection of local emergency medical providers from the local political process. While we can appreciate the public benefit for such an objective, the current system no longer works. Allowing (the Office of Emergency Medical Services) to grant an irrevocable license to a third party with no input from municipal officials is contrary to free market principles which form the basis of almost all town or special taxing district bidding procedures.”

Naugatuck officials say their biggest gripe with the Naugatuck Ambulance Association is that the group has removed a paramedic from fly cars between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. The lack of a paramedic fly car creates a public safety emergency, Rossi says.

The fly car 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 ambulance association has said through its attorney, Dominick Thomas, that it has done nothing wrong. The association says the fly car change is just a change in personnel made because Naugatuck hasn’t paid Naugatuck Ambulance a dime in more than 18 months.

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