By Meredith McCulloch
At Special Town Meeting November 6 voters agreed to support an enhanced level of ambulance service providing trained paramedics to respond on all ambulance calls. The new service would add four new firefighters trained in Advanced Life Support (ALS) to the Fire Department staff and provide additional training in ALS for four more. ALS training would prepare firemen to provide critical treatment immediately, including administering intravenous fluids, cardiac pacing, surgical airway techniques and medications.
New fees for ambulance service will range from $1067.20 for basic life support service to $1935.20 for the most advanced life support plus mileage. These rates fall below the regional average. A large percentage of fees are paid by health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, and are not borne directly by the patient. Town Meeting was told that there are usually 1400 to 3000 emergency calls a year, one-half of which require advanced life support.
By bringing ambulance service in house, Bedford is joining other towns in the area. Currently, the Town utilizes Armstrong Ambulance Service for more critical calls, but as the number of towns using their service has declined, Armstrong has cut back on the number of their locations. Recently it has taken as much as eight minutes longer for them to respond than the Bedford service. Paramedics have had to come from as far away as Woburn and Arlington
Both ambulance fees and expenses are kept separate from the operating budget and pass through the “Ambulance Enterprise Fund,” which acts like a revolving fund. The Selectmen, Fire Chief David Grunes and the Finance Department have been working with the budget over several years to establish the new enterprise fund. Other special funds such as the Cemetery Fund and Water and Sewer Funds work in a similar way.