Stating their case

Borough officials testify on EMS issue

Rossi-Testimony

HARTFORD — Naugatuck officials traveled to the state Capitol Wednesday to make their case for being granted a voice in who should run local emergency medical services.

The legislature’s Public Health Committee is contemplating whether to give municipal leaders a say in who is hired as their EMS providers. Among the advocates for that contentious proposal was Naugatuck Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi, who testified that the change “is imperative to ensure the highest level of emergency care at the lowest cost.”

Naugatuck wants to consider a new EMS provider. Currently, Naugatuck Ambulance, a nonprofit association, provides that service, as it has for about 30 years. And since Naugatuck Ambulance has been granted primary service area responder status by the state, the borough cannot attempt to change providers.

A provider “simply has to show up” in order to meet their obligation as a primary service area responder, said Rossi, who claims the state currently gives no consideration to the type of care ambulance companies provide.

“In a system governed by market principles, it is certainly the right of the private entity to determine the level of non-mandated services it will offer a client,” she said. “In this case, however, the client is the Borough of Naugatuck. … Without changes to the existing system, the license holder of a primary service area can dictate the level of non-mandated care available in a community and/or leverage ownership of the PSA to dictate compensation for delivery of the same.”

Rossi argues that changes made by Naugatuck Ambulance, including removing a fly car with a paramedic for much of the day, has “created an emergency situation” in Naugatuck.

However, Larry Santoro, director of Naugatuck Ambulance, says the change was made to save money because Naugatuck has stopped paying Naugatuck Ambulance; the two sides have an expired contract. And he said the level of care his association provides has not diminished.

Santoro, who did not attend Wednesday’s hearing, said he watched Rossi’s testimony on television. He said it was filled with “misinformation” but he would not elaborate. He did not comment further.

State officials say that the current system protects ambulance providers from political retaliation by local officials.

If the law were changed, they have said, elected municipal officials with a personal dislike for an ambulance provider could get rid of the provider and potentially cause a public health problem in the community.

State Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (R-70) testified to show her support for the proposed change. She said the recommendation would not guarantee changes to EMS providers.

“It would merely allow municipalities the opportunity to have their case heard … and to allow more sovereignty to their communities on an issue that is vitally important,” she said. “… I implore you to reflect on our borough’s situation, which may not be the majority situation, but it is a reality that demonstrates that we must have changes.”

Naugatuck officials have no personal issues with Naugatuck Ambulance, Rossi said, adding that she simply wants ambulance crews to provide the level of service that the community deserves.

Officials from Milford and Farmington also testified on behalf of giving municipalities a say in choosing EMS providers.

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