Ambulance services continue as contract expires

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NAUGATUCK — The contract between Naugatuck Ambulance and the borough expired last week, but emergency medical services for now remain unaffected.

The private nonprofit ambulance corps is the state-designated Primary Service Area Responder for emergency medical calls in the borough. Under state law, they are required to respond to emergency medical calls with or without a borough contract.

“We have to provide the services and continue to provide them, and I’m kind of unsure where the borough stands in all this, but we’ll find out soon enough,” said Larry Santoro, president of the ambulance service.

That same Primary Service Area Responder agreement, referred to as a PSA, is one of the factors stalling a decision by the Board of Mayor and Burgesses on Naugatuck Ambulance’s future with the borough.

An ad hoc committee created to put emergency medical services out to bid recommended in May that the borough sign a one-year contract with Campion Ambulance, which would take over ambulance service for $96,000. Naugatuck Ambulance’s bid for the same services was $296,000.

The state, however, only revokes PSA agreements in emergencies where the responders’ performance is jeopardizing “the safety, health, and welfare of the citizens of the affected area,” according to state law.

“It only goes for issues related to care,” said Diana Lejardi, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Health.

The bid for emergency medical services remains open while attorneys from the borough and Naugatuck Ambulance debate the PSA and other issues.

“There’s not a tremendous amount of case law interpreting the PSAs,” Mayor Robert Mezzo said.

Torrington asked for bids two years ago from companies that would possibly replace Campion, which holds the PSA for the city. That drew objections from William T. Campion, the company’s owner, who said his service would not give up its designation and the city would not be able to convince the state to revoke it. Campion is still the primary responder in Torrington.

Naugatuck Ambulance is based at 246 Rubber Ave. in a building that also holds public works offices leased from the ambulance company. The borough gave Naugatuck Ambulance its property decades ago, but a clause in the deed says ownership will revert to the borough next year. Borough attorney Edward Fitzpatrick has said the building is also a point to be legally discussed.

Naugatuck Ambulance will continue to provide one round-the-clock paramedic per shift to respond to calls from the borough, staving off a controversy that erupted last year when Santoro tried to eliminate that position and call paramedics as-needed from Waterbury instead. After Aug. 1, the paramedics will be hired from another company, not Campion as they are now. Santoro declined to reveal the new company he is contracting with until the new paramedics start.

Mezzo is working to form a committee that will oversee and advise the borough’s emergency medical services provider, analyzing statistics such as call volumes, refuse rates and response times. Unlike the Police Commission and Fire Commission, the committee will have no formal authority over the borough’s ambulance company, Mezzo said.