Town reviewing soaring costs for ambulance services

The Town of Bethlehem could achieve substantial savings through a reworking of contracts with providers of emergency medical services.

That’s according to Supervisor Sam Messina, who has been in conversation with and awaiting recommendations from a three-member Board of Ambulance Commissioners formed this year. The board was established for the purpose of reviewing financial, contractual and service matters relating to ambulance services.

Emergency services in Bethlehem come from several providers. The county provides advanced life support, or ALS services, while agencies like Bethlehem Ambulance, Delmar EMS, and Western Turnpike Rescue Squad provide basic life support, or BLS services.

Emergency calls within the town that are more serious in nature typically require response from the county EMS service. The skyrocketing cost for medical response from the county has more than doubled over the past decade, according to Messina.

On Nov. 22, the Bethlehem Town Board authorized the execution of an Advanced Life Support ambulance contract with Albany County for the year. The contract was in the amount of $761,079. Messina said the agreement has been characteristically late in getting to the town for approval.

“There was a legitimate reason, while we are in the current year, to look at this, to see what we can do differently in terms of systems and deliverables for Bethlehem, or negotiate something different with Albany County,” Messina told the Town Board at the November meeting.

The town has also been notified that the cost of the county contract will continue to rise.

“In projecting the 2012 budget, we were given an estimate by Albany County that costs would go up about 8 percent again,” said Messina. “It’s time to take a hard, close look at that.”

For now, the county does not bill for ALS services, but contracts are being developed between the town and county to change that.

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