Borough officials seek to change ambulance service


By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

NAUGATUCK — Borough officials are moving forward with an effort to replace Naugatuck Ambulance Inc. with their own plan for emergency medical services.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses on Aug. 3 unanimously supported filing a petition with the state Department of Public Health to remove Naugatuck Ambulance as the primary service area responder for the borough, and replace it with an alternate responder that “will enhance the level of service for all citizens of Naugatuck and also enhance service for mutual aid partners.”

“The level of service that’s being provided is woefully inadequate and it’s necessary for the borough to obtain a much higher level of service for our citizens,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said after the meeting.

The borough does not operate or oversee Naugatuck Ambulance, a private nonprofit that holds the primary service area responder designation for Naugatuck. PSARs are overseen by the Department of Public Health. The designation grants rights to the holder to provide emergency medical service in a given area.

Municipalities can request DPH change a PSAR designation by claiming a performance crisis or unsatisfactory performance of an agency. Municipalities also can submit alternative plans to change the designation.

Borough officials are hoping to convince DPH their plan provides better service. Hess said he expected to submit the borough’s application and plan to DPH by early next week.

When reached by phone Aug. 4, Naugatuck Ambulance President Larry Santoro said he had no comment at this time.

The borough’s petition and plan will go through a hearing process before DPH makes any decisions. It’s unclear when a hearing would be scheduled after the petition is submitted. Christopher Boyle, a spokesman for DPH, could not be reached for comment. A message left seeking comment was not returned.

The borough board’s vote Aug. 3 came about a month after officials from Beacon Hose Co. No. 1, Middlebury Fire Department, Oxford Ambulance Association and Seymour Ambulance Association — all volunteer companies — decided to stop responding to Priority 2 mutual aid EMS calls in Naugatuck. Priority 2 calls involve cases that are not considered life-threatening. The departments are still responding to mutual aid calls for life-threatening situations.

The departments cited an unsustainable level of mutual aid requests as the reason for the decision, as well as no improvement in the number of requests after meetings in December and January to discuss the issue.

From Dec. 13, 2020, through June 12, 2021, Naugatuck Ambulance received 2,340 EMS calls, according to figures provided by Northwest Connecticut Public Safety Communication Center to the borough. Out of those calls, 815, or nearly 35%, were passed off to area agencies for mutual aid.

American Medical Response and Trinity Health of New England EMS, both based in Waterbury, responded to 311 and 284 mutual aid calls, respectively, in Naugatuck during that time. Beacon Hose responded to 146 of those calls. The next highest was Middlebury, which responded to 38.

AMR and Trinity Health are still responding to Priority 1 and 2 requests in Naugatuck.

Hess said he spoke with Santoro and told him the borough was going to take appropriate action to take over EMS.

“We are prepared at a moment’s notice to take whatever action is necessary to protect the citizens,” Hess said during last week’s meeting.