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.
But that is happening in Andover as town leaders are considering dropping an advanced life support ambulance service provided by Lawrence General Hospital in favor of starting its own such service.
The proposal comes with considerable financial risk for Andover taxpayers in return for marginal gains in response times. In fact, Lawrence General argues that dropping the service provided by its highly trained and experienced personnel in favor of less experienced town staff may put patients’ health at risk.
Andover selectmen should keep these concerns in mind when they take up the proposal again tomorrow night.
Fire Chief Michael Mansfield wants to upgrade the town’s ambulance services from basic life support to advanced life support.
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 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 is asking 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, hospital representatives countered.