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January 11, 2012

Mass. ambulance firms working out ALS kinks

By Rita Savard
Lowell Sun

LOWELL, Mass. — Health officials and paramedics are combing through emergency response calls and medical data to settle a dispute between the city's two ambulance companies.

Feuding paramedics last month didn't agree over the way the city's contracted ambulance provider, Trinity EMS, has been managing Advanced Life Support Services (ALS). Dr. Ryan Searle, who oversees ALS at Saints Medical Center expressed concern over what he called "competing ambulances," including ambulances trying to outrace each other to a scene, would be detrimental to patients.

Searle said adding extra paramedics in Lowell, without any increase in population, lessens the number of critical care patients the emergency responder sees. That, he added, has adverse effects on skills and competency.

But the Board of Health was outraged over the assumption that the city added more paramedics. Trinity Ambulance is the sole contract holder, and subcontracts ALS assistance from Saints.

It was Saint's GLEMS (Greater Lowell Emergency Medical Services) that seemed to have put more vehicles on the road, said board member Bill Gavin.

To help the contract holder and subcontract holder improve communication, health officials tasked Trinity with forming a subcommittee meeting to find benchmarks and hammer out an agreement based on real numbers.

Tuesday, the two ambulance providers seemed to be working well together and in agreement over benchmarks, including response times, transport times, number of paramedics on duty per shift and life-saving medical procedures, according to Joanne Keegan, chair of the board.

By April, both companies plan to have reports based on real numbers from calls, transports, procedures and success rates.

"The board's job is to look at benchmarks," Keegan said. "The subcommittee was meant to help keep continued dialogue open between the two companies to continue the best service for city residents."

Copyright 2012 MediaNews Group, Inc.

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