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Friday, June 22, 2012

2nd ambulance to start runs in July

As published in the Record Journal Friday June 22, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff

(203) 317-2235

The Fire Department is getting ready to bring its second ambulance into service next month.

Fire Chief Peter Struble said this week that the department has made four conditional job offers for new emergency medical staff and is hoping to launch the new unit in mid- to late July.

“I think there will be a noticeable improvement in our service once we get them on,” Struble said. “It’s really exciting.”

The second ambulance will run seven days a week during the peak hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., in addition to the current ambulance, which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Officials
believe that having another unit will lessen the town’s dependence on commercial emergency transport services for backup. The current vehicle is tied up for about 40 minutes of each hour during peak time, according to the Fire Department.

The second unit is part of an administrative shift approved by the Town Council this May to put the town’s ambulance service into an enterprise fund. The fund is an attempt to make the service self-sustaining, with the town contributing no more than 10 percent of the cost of the service.

“It’s going to, in the long run, really show Wallingford again has a very efficient government,” said Republican councilor John LeTourneau.

The entire council supported the project since the
department presented it earlier this year. Many opposed cuts to ambulance services two years ago, when the town more than halved the amount of paramedics on duty – from four paramedics on days and three on nights to two on days and one on nights – and consider this a restoration of services. LeTourneau said that on the campaign trail last fall, many residents were worried about the lack of paramedics.

“I think that was the hot topic, ambulance coverage for the town. A lot of people were concerned about it,” LeTourneau said.

The four new hires still must pass background checks and physical exams, but Struble said he believes they will be brought on in early July. All are certified emergency medical technicians, two are paramedics,
and one will be graduating soon as a paramedic, Struble said. They will receive a few weeks of department specific training before the unit gets up and running. The department already owns the vehicle.

The department is also reviewing bids for new billing services in response to its request for proposals. The current billing agency’s contract expires this month, and the department had requested this year to expand the scope of its outside billing services by contracting with a collection agency as well to help recoup delinquent fees. In previous years, the service has lost 42 to 43 percent of revenues to these
late or unpaid fees.

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