JAMESTOWN – Mayor Eddie Sundquist says the city is doing what it can to address a pending crisis with ambulance service in the community after Alstar Ambulance Service and UPMC Chautauqua announced last week that it was terminating its mutual aid agreement with the city.
UPMC Chautauqua’s Alstar EMS division is the primary provider of EMS transport in the city. The Jamestown Fire Department isn’t the primary ambulance service provider for the city, but fills in when Alstar is out of service.
In recent years, the fire department has been fielding more and more EMS calls. That means UPMC Chautauqua has to give the city more in reimbursement payments under the mutual aid agreement. The hospital has said it is now terminating that agreement because it is over 20 years old and UPMC now wants to see new reimbursement rates with the city.
According to Sundquist in his 2020 State of the City report, the city was handling 50 ambulance transports a week and contracted and contracted with Alstar to be the primary ambulance provider for the city to bring that number down. However, last year alone, the city fire department did over 1,000 ambulance transports while Alstar was offline, adding the number doesn’t account for countless calls for service that brought neighboring municipalities in to assist. “This is simply not sustainable for the city,” Sundquist said.
Following Monday Night’s Jamestown City Council meeting, Sundquist gave WRFA and other members of the media update on the ambulance service situation, saying that while the city plans to meet with UPMC officials to discuss an the termination of the agreement and possibly iron out terms for a new agreement, it has also put out a Request for Proposals (RFPs) to see if another privately operated service provider would be willing to come into the community.
“At this point we are going to be working be working with Alstar to see if there is anyway we can move that relationship forward. In the meantime, we are also going to be putting out a Request for Proposal to provide an exclusive ambulance franchise for another private ambulance to come in and service our residents,” Sundquist said.
As for Alstar, Sunduist said the mutual aid agreement with the city will be terminated by mid April unless the two sides can come to agreement on new terms.
“Alstar is not leaving the area. We’ve not been given that indication. They are terminating their agreement with the city in April. They’ve given us a 90-day notice,” Sundquist said.
Late last year former Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi – along with Deputy Fire Chief Sam Salemme and Public Safety Director Harry Snellings – had put forward various options to consider in order to address the growth of EMS calls being handled by the city as Alstar continues to roll back its service in the community. Among those suggestions was contracting with other private companies, which could have a projected net cost of $450,000 for the city. Another option would be for the city to provide its own in house ambulance service, which could cost as much as $1.5 million for the city – something both Teresi and Sundquist have stated is unlikely to occur.
In the meantime, the city Fire Department will still have to contend with increased EMS calls in the near future. That means it will likely need new ambulances to add to its fleet, something that was included in the $13.6 million 2019 Smart City Capital Investment Plan the city council approved last year and which included borrowing up to $12.6 million to help pay for it.