Ledyard's volunteer ambulance service leaning toward giving up its exclusive coverage rights

Ledyard — Early indications are that the town will be avoiding any kind of prolonged fight regarding its ambulance service.

At an executive meeting Wednesday night, officers of the Ledyard Volunteer Emergency Squad seemed to be in agreement about voluntarily relinquishing the exclusive coverage rights for the town, suggesting that a drawn-out fight overseen by the state will be avoided.

The officers will bring their recommendation to the full membership group for a vote next month in order to make the decision official.

LVES has been responsible for the town’s ambulance services since 1972, and, although it is not a municipal agency, it is designated as the primary service area responder for Ledyard. This means, aside from receiving assistance from mutual aid ambulances, LVES essentially has the exclusive right of being the first option to provide emergency medical aid in the town.

However, if LVES decides to voluntarily relinquish that right, the town will choose a new ambulance service from those who respond to its request for proposals. The new company would be assigned as the primary service area responder.

"I just want the residents of the town to know, as an organization we tried to do the best job that we can do, and in the long run, we haven’t been able to fulfill this because of circumstances well outside our control,” LVES Director Rick Mumenthaler said Wednesday.

LVES officers during the meeting raised concerns about the ramifications of the town switching from its voluntary ambulance service, including worries about quality of service and what LVES' loss of status would do to other related active responders. For instance, the Ledyard Fire Department operates its R1, or first responder's status, under the umbrella of LVES' primary service area responder status.

However, officers expressed that it would be a primary goal of theirs to make sure the fire department maintains its R1 status even if LVES is no longer the area’s primary service provider.

Another aspect forcing the hand of LVES officers is that the organization doesn’t really possess the credentials to respond to the request for proposals. Members previously had expressed a desire to respond to the request, though.

The town explicitly requires respondents to be an "active, legal entity with a business office located within the State of Connecticut and equipped with such radios, telephones and other necessary equipment and supplies for the proper operation of the ambulance service."

LVES is not such a legal entity and, although it would be interested in becoming one, officers expressed concerns that there simply isn’t enough time to do so before the May 7 deadline for proposals.

Officers also said that they weren’t inclined to fight over the PSA because, if they did, the town could actually take away the ambulances or restrict access to the emergency services building, both of which the town owns. In theory, that would make the town’s case before the state about needing a new ambulance company stronger.

However, the town actively preventing its primary service area responder from providing emergency medical aid also likely would open up a host of liabilities.

“We don’t have time to do anything. ... They made it pretty crystal clear that in no way, shape or form, they want to work with volunteers,” Training Officer Kathee Ivey said of the Town Council’s position on the matter. "The reality is they’re not willing to work with us. ... In the long run, it is going to hurt the town and I feel sorry for the residents of Ledyard if they’re not looking at all the factors.”

c.clark@theday.com

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