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Somersworth council votes to switch ambulance providers

Union Leader Correspondent

April 17. 2013 10:36PM
American Ambulance Services will be Somersworth's new provider. 

SOMERSWORTH - American Ambulance Services gained a new foothold in the region this week when city officials decided to switch providers.

Fire Chief Keith Hoyle said on Monday the City Council voted 7-1 with one abstention to accept American Ambulance, which was one of three companies that submitted a proposal.

"We asked for a lot more than we ever had before," Hoyle said, adding the city wanted a guarantee for 24-hour ambulance service as well as community outreach.

While all three companies - which also included American Medical Response (AMR) and CarePlus Ambulance - met the minimum requirements, Hoyle said officials were most impressed by American Ambulance's proposal. He added the company also guaranteed a second ambulance for 56 hours a week and offered two scholarships for students interested in becoming emergency medical technicians.

"Any one of the three companies could have been selected," Hoyle said.

As a result, American Ambulance crews will be responding to emergencies throughout the city instead of AMR, which operates throughout the region and the country.

It was a big step for American Ambulance in the Seacoast, as the Massachusetts-based company opened the doors to just its first New Hampshire office - along Route 108 - March 1.

As a result of the new contract, the company may have to expand its fleet of six ambulances and is actively seeing applications for new employees via its Facebook page.

"I think we've been very well received in the community," said Paul Robidas, general manager for New Hampshire and Maine.

In the past month and a half, American Ambulance crews have responded to about 40 emergencies and non-urgent calls per week.

Robidas said the company, which has many former AMR employees, plans to submit requests for proposals in Kittery and Berwick, Maine.

American Ambulance transports 280,000 patients annually in Beverly, Allston, Hyde Park and Cape Cod in the Bay State and from Key West to Orlando in Florida.

"We're in the process of expanding into the Manchester market," Robidas said, adding the company is planning to partner with Elliot Hospital in Manchester while looking for options to also expand in Portland, Maine.

Robidas expects competition between the two ambulance companies will ensure area residents have the best care for the best value.

Crews from AMR respond to more than 9,000 calls, for both emergency and non-emergency situations in the Seacoast areas of New Hampshire and in Maine each year, according to its website

"We were disappointed in the council's decision, but we were pleased to hear from councilors that the decision was not based on AMR's performance as provider of E911 services to the residents of Somersworth," AMR General Manager Chris Stawasz said in an e-mail.

As one of the larger providers of emergency medical services in the country, AMR also serves Derry, Hampstead, Manchester and Nashua in the state as well as Kittery and Scarborough in Maine, according to its website.

While American Ambulance crews can be called to transport residents throughout the Seacoast - from Farmington to Epping to the Massachusetts state line - it is up to the communities to choose to accept a dedicated provider for emergencies, according to Brendan McNiff, CEO for New England.

Additionally, McNiff said the company invested in a trailer that can provide supplies to assist 100 patients during emergencies in the Seacoast.

American Ambulance Service of New England is owned by Falck, a 106-year-old Scandinavian-based company that provides emergency medical services in 15 nations.

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