Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

April 4, 2013

Hard to justify scrapping current ambulance service

At a time when there is increasing pressure on every public dollar, it is hard to justify a community’s abandoning an effective, efficient regional service and striking out on its own.

Fire Chief Michael Mansfield wants to upgrade the town’s ambulance services from basic life support to advanced life support, in the process dropping an advanced life support ambulance service provided by Lawrence General Hospital. Selectmen Monday were right to suggest Mansfield should work with the hospital rather than look to create a new taxpayer-funded service.

Emergency medical technicians are trained to provide basic life savings care and transport patients to the hospital as quickly as possible. But when a patient is suffering a more serious medical crisis, he or she needs the services of paramedics, who are trained to provide a higher level of care than EMTs. A paramedic is able to administer intravenous fluids and medications, insert breathing tubes, read electrocardiograms and provide other such advanced treatments.

In a presentation to selectmen, Mansfield has said having its own advanced life support ambulance service would allow Andover to cut response times by 20 to 25 percent over ALS crews dispatched from Lawrence General.

Mansfield asked selectmen to fund the first-year start-up cost of just under $146,000. Mansfield said the cost would increase slightly year by year, but the revenue generated by the service each year through 2017 would cover the full cost of the program.

The ALS service provided by Lawrence General comes at no cost to the community, and their greater number of patient interactions leads to great experience and better outcomes for patients, hospital representatives countered.

If public safety officials in town have concerns with LGH’s handling of town cases it should work with the hospital to improve the service. The hospital is planning a multi-million-dollar medical center on Route 133 in Andover and is trying to entice residents to return to using LGH rather than travelling to Boston for non-emergency medical needs. LGH has every reason to listen and respond to any legitimate concerns town safety officials may have about all its services.

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