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Groton Ambulance Association improving service; state officials to visit Oct 5

Groton —  Two emergency medical services officials from the state Department of Public Health will visit Groton Oct. 5 to discuss the status of nonprofit Groton Ambulance Association Inc., which remains under inquiry by the attorney general's office.

Mike Rivers, Region 4 emergency medical services coordinator, and Jonathan Lillpopp, health program assistant for the state, will meet at 11 a.m. in Groton's emergency management office with Town Manager Mark Oefinger, Mayor Rita Schmidt, Office of Emergency Management Director Joseph Sastre, and Rich Moravsik, council Public Safety Committee chairman.

The group will be joined via conference call by Wendy H. Furniss, chief of the health care quality and safety branch of the Department of Public Health's Office of Emergency Medical Services.

Moravsik said Tuesday that service by the ambulance company vastly has improved.

"They've put extra staff on and it's 100 percent better," he said. "So there's no problems (there), but if they have a financial problem, that would have to be dealt with."

Moravsik said he would ask the state about the process for changing ambulance services in case that is required.

Steve Christina, Groton Ambulance's newly elected board president, said the association hired eight per diem experienced emergency medical technicians in the last month.

Seven are working and one will go through additional training in about a week, he said.

The association's goal is to have two ambulances staffed 24 hours a day, in keeping with the town's request, Christina said.

One ambulance is staffed 24 hours and one is staffed from 6 a.m. until midnight, he said.

The association board members also have been assigned specific tasks, such as updating training programs, "and they've been diligently working on them," Christina said.

An accountant is working on Groton Ambulance's nonprofit's tax form 990 for 2014, Christina said. 

The accountant requested an extension and has until Oct. 15 to file, Christina said.

Paperwork requested by the state Office of the Attorney General has been turned over to that office, he said.

The attorney general opened an inquiry last month into the use of charitable funds by the association. The investigation continues.

"Our inquiry into the Groton Ambulance Association is active and ongoing and, as such, because this is a pending matter, we're unable to comment further at this time," Jaclyn M. Falkowski, director of communications for the Office of the Attorney General, said Tuesday.

The association paid its office manager $134,276, according to its 2013 tax filing — the most recent available — and previously allowed her and the former vice president to borrow money without written agreements, according to federal tax records.

The ambulance association initially came under scrutiny by Moravsik in July, after he heard complaints that it provided no service on seven Sundays in April and May, and did not respond to five calls the last week of June.

Groton Ambulance provides ambulance services to about two-thirds of Groton, including the City of Groton and much of the Town of Groton.

d.straszheim@theday.com

Twitter: @DStraszheim

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