BRATTLEBORO — The last big hurdle for Golden Cross Ambulance Service starting in Brattleboro is cleared.
“The application that Golden Cross submitted for EMS service in Brattleboro was approved earlier this afternoon by the state of Vermont,” Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland said at the Select Board meeting Tuesday.
Golden Cross of Claremont, N.H., needed the Vermont Department of Health to sign off on a plan to allow it to transport patients at a paramedic level in Brattleboro. The ambulance service received the blessing of the regional Vermont EMS District 13 in May.
Brattleboro’s new partnership with Golden Cross, which officially begins July 1, comes after contract disputes with local provider Rescue Inc. The hope is to build a joint fire/EMS service.
Town officials began working with AP Triton of Wyoming last week to evaluate the feasibility of the Brattleboro Fire Department taking complete responsibility for EMS. Moreland said the firm asked for a “very large volume of data” to evaluate to develop recommendations and will be meeting with various stakeholders.
In a 4-0 vote Tuesday, the Select Board approved an addendum to the one-year $75,000 contract with Golden Cross to have three ambulances stationed in town rather than two and a second advanced emergency medical technician on staff for 24 hours a day instead of 12. Golden Cross of Claremont, N.H., offered the additional resources at no extra cost for 90 days. After that, the town can choose to go with the original level of service initially agreed to or increase it with the additional resources for an extra $50,000 for the remainder of the year.
“I think this is sensible and useful and I’m really grateful for the flexibility that Golden Cross has shown,” Board Vice Chairman Daniel Quipp said, pointing out how the hybrid model will have Golden Cross running ambulances and providing staff with the fire department’s emergency medical technicians and AEMTs working alongside them. “I’m glad this is happening.”
Board members anticipate the decision after the first three months of service will largely depend on data available through dispatch.
Assistant Fire Chief Charles “Chuck” Keir III said dispatch reports indicate that about 18 percent of the time, calls would be doubled up, then a little less than 2 percent of time there would be a triple stack.
“It’s easy to say 2 percent is a number but we’re not talking about 2 percent as a number,” he said. “We’re talking about 2 percent as a life ... The number is really, really low but it’s a call we want to make sure we’re able to address.”
Regarding how the addendum came about, Fire Chief Len Howard said he called Golden Cross and asked how the group would proceed if the town wanted an extra ambulance.
Howard expects a minimum of eight personnel including Golden Cross staff will be able to respond to an emergency in Brattleboro on any given day, four more personnel will be available during normal office hours and off-duty staff can be called in if necessary. Adding the extra ambulance and AEMT hours is “certainly a good safety cushion for us and it gives us three months to see how we’re doing in the first three months,” he said.
Board member Jessica Gelter said she thinks the addendum will put people’s minds at ease. Board Chairman Ian Goodnow asked fire department officials to regularly report on use of the additional resources.