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Westhampton moving to create local ambulance service

At a special Town Meeting earlier this month, Westhampton voters approved spending $8,000 for startup equipment for a new part-time ambulance service that will be run by the volunteer Fire Department.

Fire Chief Christopher Norris said plans are to have his department’s 14 volunteer emergency medical technicians providing ambulance service to Westhampton residents between 4 p.m. and midnight, with a private ambulance service covering the remainder of the 24-hour day,

Norris said his department will use $21,000 in grant funds to supplement town funds for items such as defibrillators and a hydraulic lift for a local ambulance service. The fire department will cover the costs of purchasing a used ambulance. “The driving factor behind this is that we did not want any decrease in the level of care for our residents,” Norris said. “By doing this, we’re actually increasing our capacity to transport people” to local hospitals.

Pat Miller, head of the Westhampton Council on Aging, said the ambulance proposal met with no opposition at the recent Town Meeting. “It seems this has all been taken care of, pre-crisis mode,” she said. “I don’t think there will be a lot of difference in the service.”

Northampton notified Westhampton last summer that it would be terminating its contract to provide basic ambulance service to Westhampton residents effective July 1.

Northampton Mayor David J. Narkewicz said wear and tear on city vehicles and other costs associated with sending ambulances to Westhampton led to a decision to exercise the opt-out clause in the contract.

Since then, Westhampton town officials have been developing plans for a part-time local ambulance service and have been negotiating with Pioneer Valley EMS in Florence to cover the remainder of the day, according to Selectboard Chair John Shaw Jr.

Shaw said he anticipates a local ambulance service would “break even” financially. “We get about 70 to 80 calls a year on average and each call costs $1,000,” he said, adding that most of that cost is covered by insurance.

Shaw stressed that the main reason for creating a local ambulance service is “continuity of service and care for our residents. ”

The ambulance plan will be on the agenda for Westhampton’s annual Town Meeting scheduled for May 11.

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