LUDLOW, Vt. – Stephanie Grover, deputy chief for Ludlow Ambulance, has a lot to be proud of since ambulance service made the switch over to full-time paid staffing in October 2019, providing around the clock emergency medical service and cutting response times in half.
According to Grover, just in the last three weeks, they have responded to at least five emergency calls where “time was of the essence,” including two stroke victims. Doctors have reported back to her that because of their quick response, the patients’ recovery was greatly improved. Ludlow Ambulance Service responded to 916 calls last year, covering Ludlow, Cavendish, and Plymouth.
The staff now includes three full-time people with everyone else being part-time. Staffers are a combination of paramedics and EMTs. Everyone is paid hourly, and there are no more volunteers.
Although technically Grover is being overseen by Police Chief Jeff Billings, he sees his position as just a mentor at this point with Grover expected to assume the reins officially in about six months. “She does it all,” Billings said.
The service’s long-term planning is continuing to evolve, working toward having paramedic coverage 24/7. They have a new person who is about to start paramedic training, with two more just finishing up paramedic school. Another person is attending EMT classes. Grover admits that all these changes take time but Ludlow Ambulance is committed to long-term planning and ongoing service improvement.
The change in structure has been very successful, according to Grover, but there is a trade off. Along with the increased services, costs have increased dramatically as well. “Our budget has definitely taken a hit,” she said.
To help combat some of their fiscal issues, Ludlow Ambulance have made other changes as well including outsourced their billing to a service that has had success in billing efficiency and debt recovery. They have also increased their rates to bring them more in-line with the state average and increased their fees to their service towns by 10%.
The ambulance service also offers a subscription program coverage residents can participate in. The annual cost is $60 per household if you have insurance, $120 if you don’t and which covers the entire household. Currently 196 households are participating.
Ludlow Ambulance Service is covered through a proprietary fund with the proposed budget showing a $73,000 deficit, something that Municipal Manager Scott Murphy thinks will turn around with the new revenue measures in place, hoping they will break even in the near future. Until then, the service is helped with a capital fund.
The town votes on the service as a separate article; although Murphy expects that in the near future it likely will be brought under the town budget. Murphy is hoping the increased service will garner public support, and they will appreciate the critical service that Ludlow Ambulance is providing. “Providing a higher level of service. I think that’s what the voters really want,” Murphy said.
Grover knows that there have been a lot of changes, but that they were definitely needed. “Even though changes are scary, it’s been in such a positive direction,” she said.