The city has received three bids to provide emergency medical service, two of which could add significantly to its bottom line.
Late last year, the city advertised for ambulance service bids as a way of increasing revenue for the city without raising taxes during difficult economic times.
City Public Safety Commissioner Ronald Kim said Monday two of the three bids it has received would mean new revenue for the city. One of the bids, for example, could mean an additional $300,000 a year for the city. “Most cities make money on their emergency services [contracts],” Kim said.
Saratoga Emergency Medical Services (SEMS), a not-for-profit organization, has been providing ambulance service to the city for decades. SEMS uses mostly paid professional paramedics, with a few volunteers, to provide advanced life support services to Saratoga Springs and the town of Greenfield.
SEMS does not pay the city rent for its space in the West Avenue fire department building, nor does it pay any other revenue to the city.
The SEMS proposal to the city includes just one dollar per month to the city for use of the West Avenue facility and $1 to the city for each call it answers. The ambulance squad answers about 3,600 calls per year.
A proposal by Empire Ambulance Service of Cohoes offers $100,000 to lease the city’s ambulance building on West Avenue and an estimated $200,000 in payments a year to the city from insurance reimbursements.
The other bid the city received on the ambulance transport services was from Mohawk Ambulance Service of Schenectady. Kim said this ambulance service offered 100 percent of its insurance reimbursements to the city, less a 10 percent service fee, and the payment of “fair market value” to lease the ambulance service space in the city’s West Side firehouse on West Avenue.
The City Council is expected to hold a workshop meeting soon during which each bidder will present their proposal to the council.
Kim said he would like to see a contract awarded for ambulance transport service in March.
Clark Hayward, president of SEMS, said on Monday his organization is a not-for-profit organization while Mohawk and Empire are for-profit businesses.
“It’s apples and oranges,” he said about comparing the two. He said Empire and Mohawk are much larger ambulance services with different types of ambulances, serving larger populations in Albany, Schenectady and Troy.
If the city were to chose another ambulance service, “we would cease to exist,” Hayward said.
Hayward said SEMS gets all its funding from insurance payments from the patients it transports.
Hayward said his organization and Kim have been discussing the ambulance transport service issue for months.
Kim noted that city firefighters are trained paramedics who respond to emergency situations on a regular basis.
Kim maintained the firefighters are often at the scene before the ambulance squad.
Hayward said this is not true. He said more than 50 percent of the time, the ambulance squad arrives at the scene first.
“The money is not the issue,” Hayward said.
He said he believes the city is interested in eventually getting the fire department into the ambulance service arena.