LUDLOW, Vt. – Ludlow Municipal Manager Scott Murphy is worried about the future of emergency medical services in his town. Realizing that the ambulance service in Ludlow is running at a deficit, Murphy asked area municipalities, heads of ambulance and first services, and other regional leaders to attend a meeting Wednesday, Aug. 29 at Heald Auditorium to discuss long-term solutions that might keep the service viable for Ludlow and the surrounding area.
“It boils down to increasing costs, limited reimbursements, decreasing volunteers, and difficulty attraction qualified paid personnel. There’s an increase in the number of calls as the population ages so all of these things together are putting a strain on regional ambulance services,” said Murphy.
Attending the meeting were regional ambulance operators and select board members from Chester, Plymouth, Cavendish, and Ludlow; Southern Windsor County Planning Commission members; and two members of the Vermont Office of Emergency Medical Services.
Dan Batsie, State EMS Chief, led the discussion acknowledging the difficulty in running a volunteer service. He recommended a joint collaboration between all the relevant stakeholders, largely the towns represented in the room, to come up with a plan together that will assure continued and timely EMS to the communities before there is a real crisis. He noted that each town should be prepared to pay for EMS in the future.
According to Murphy, what the population is looking for is fast response times. “I think the taxpayers are willing to pay for that to some degree.”
How that will impact local budgets is what Murphy, Ludlow, and the surrounding towns will try to figure out.
Murphy himself noted, days after this initial meeting, that this group is just in the beginning stages of long-term planning for the future of EMS with next steps concentrating largely on information gathering and idea generation. They will also look at towns that are getting it right, such as Stowe, which has a strong fundraising program, a healthy endowment, and taxpayer support. In speaking about Stowe’s example, Murphy noted, “Maybe that’s something we’ll move closer toward.”
As for Ludlow’s next steps, Murphy will discuss the issue with the Select Board in their upcoming meeting. At that point, Murphy will share those deficit numbers for the first time.
In the meantime, Murphy is pleased that the first meeting was so well attended and that his EMS concerns are being addressed, as Batsie noted “before there is a real crisis.”
The next EMS meeting time and place will be announced in the coming weeks.