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Shared EMS might offer more, but would also cost southern Franklin County towns more

While emergency medical service and response times would improve in a tri-town regional ambulance system, costs most likely wouldn’t drop.

Three southern Franklin County towns — Deerfield, Whately and Sunderland — are trying to create Franklin County’s first regional ambulance service. While it might cost taxpayers more, it is seen as providing better service for residents.

Based on estimates by a consultant, the three towns could pay an additional $200,000 combined per year for the improved EMS.

“This will be an improvement in services. It won’t be a cost savings for any town,” conceded Whately Town Administrator Lynn Sibley.

For this fiscal year, Whately collected approximately $27,000 in revenue from private insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid. The cost to run its ambulance is $25,000.

In Sunderland, the total cost to operate the ambulance is now $158,959. About $97,000 is funded through ambulance fees and the rest is funded through taxes.

In Deerfield, the ambulance service budget this year is $266,319. This includes $170,000 in payments from insurance companies. The remainder is paid for through taxes.

The costs for each town for the regional 24-hour service has not yet been determined. “We have been tasked with coming up with an implementation plan. Part of our work here before April 1 will be to review the consultant numbers and make sure they closely match what we can expect,” said Sunderland Town Administrator Margaret Nartowicz.

Based on the recommendation of the town’s fire chiefs and hired EMS consultant, Bruce Baxter and Associates in Haverhill, the emergency service, based in South Deerfield, would staff a first call-first response Class 1 paramedic ambulance 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Simultaneous or second calls would be managed by on-call personnel in a reserve ambulance, which would be either the Sunderland or Whately ambulance.

Right now, the departments rely on a dwindling number of volunteer EMTs. Deerfield has 20 EMTs and three paramedics. Sunderland has one full-time firefighter and EMT.

By sharing emergency medical services, the three towns hope to provide better service and quicker responses. Baxter produced his report in November funded by a $15,000 grant from the Franklin County Regional Council of Governments.

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