Conn. town drops ambulance service over sale to AMR
The town manager declared a state of emergency, and says the community should have input in the change of service
By Jesse Leavenworth
The Hartford Courant
SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. — The town manager on Friday cut ties with the longtime local ambulance service, routing calls to a Manchester company and pressing to oust the local outfit from a town fire station.
Town Manager Matthew Galligan declared a public emergency and changed EMS providers after South Windsor Ambulance Corps (SWAC) representatives announced a sale of assets to American Medical Response. The $220,000 sale is to be completed on May 12, but amid "the uncertainty of SWAC's ability to continue service," Galligan ordered all calls sent to Ambulance Service of Manchester, according to a town news release.
Nevertheless, SWAC President Carol Salcius said the Corps' paid ambulance staff continued to stand by for calls on Friday.
"Mr. Galligan is doing that illegally," Salcius said of the switch to the Manchester-based provider. "There's no emergency in town, and if there's no emergency in town, he has taken our right away from us."
SWAC has complained about Galligan's action to state officials, who have jurisdiction over an ambulance provider's "primary service area," or PSA, Salcius said. Meanwhile, she said, the Ambulance Corps is working with AMR to "seamlessly transition into a contract with them to provide EMS services to the town."
The state Department of Public Health, agency spokesman William Gerrish said, "received a notice of intent from AMR of Connecticut to purchase assets of the South Windsor Ambulance Corp, Inc., which holds the basic ambulance level PSA (primary service area) for the town of South Windsor. We are currently reviewing this notice of intent and will make a determination in accordance with applicable state statutes and regulations."
Galligan said, however, that such a transition with no local input is "ludicrous."
"I have no idea whether AMR has the right to work in South Windsor," Galligan said. "In fact, I have no idea what their abilities are. I think the town should have the right to purchase the PSA and award it to a provider that we feel meets our community's needs."
Troubles between the town and the Ambulance Corps have been brewing for years. Galligan said the service, which switched from volunteer to paid staff in 2004, has been plagued with problems, including ambulance breakdowns, missed calls and financial woes
Ambulance Service of Manchester has provided paramedic-level and back-up service to South Windsor for years. The town council in January voted unanimously to sever relations with SWAC and contract with ASM for all services, but the decision was not immediately implemented.
Council members complained at the January meeting about years of leadership failures at the ambulance corps, according to a Fox CT story.
"Personally, I don't have any confidence in SWAC's ability to make the organizational change that needs to be made to protect the residents of the town of South Windsor," council member Keith Yagaloff said at the time.
The town recently served the Ambulance Corps with a notice of eviction from the West Road fire station, police Chief Matthew Reed said. Town officials said the Corps owes the town about $180,000 in back taxes.
Both Galligan and Reed said the state may tell town leaders their actions were wrong, but both said their immediate concern is the safety of town residents.