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    Thursday, May 23, 2024

    Hartford HealthCare puts its mark on newly acquired American Ambulance in Norwich

    New director of operations Joshua Beaulieu talks about the power lift stretcher, cardiac monitor and cabinets of additional supplies for patients in the new paramedic ambulance. Hartford HealthCare recently purchased American Ambulance. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    One of the new ambulances Thursday, May 9, 2024, that has American Ambulance and Hartford HealthCare printed on its sides. Hartford HealthCare recently purchased American Ambulance. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Interior of the new paramedic ambulance that has a power lift stretcher, cardiac monitor and cabinets of additional supplies for patients. Hartford HealthCare recently purchased American Ambulance. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Dispatchers Matt Lawhorne, left, and Andrew Richards, at work Thursday, May 9, 2024, in the American Ambulance Dispatch Center. Hartford HealthCare recently purchased American Ambulance. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Norwich ― American Ambulance vehicles and employees now sport the Hartford HealthCare insignia, as the new owner brings major upgrades to the landmark Norwich business.

    Hartford HealthCare last year acquired American Ambulance Services, founded in 1972 by prominent city businessman Ronald Aliano, and sister company, American Professional Educational Services. The transition has been underway for several months.

    New ambulances bear the Hartford HealthCare name and pinwheel logo alongside the American Ambulance name. Hartford HealthCare has purchased new ambulances, is expanding staffing and seeks to hire more employees, said Joshua Beaulieu, director of operations for Hartford HeathCare American Ambulance.

    Soon, he said, the building, leased from owner American Group Realty LLC, will display the new name and logo.

    American Ambulance is part of Hartford HeathCare’s emergency management services network that includes Hunter Ambulance, Windham Paramedics and Charlotte Hungerford Paramedics in Torrington. The network includes LifeStar and the Center for Education, Simulation Innovation, an educational service at Hartford Hospital.

    The ambulance and emergency dispatch are in the upper level of the facility off High Street. The separate company, American Professional Education Services, also is on the lower level on the Thames Street side of the building. The education service provides EMT, CNA, paramedics, phlebotomy classes and training for American Ambulance employees.

    Norwich contracts with American as the city’s primary emergency medical services provider. The contract runs through November 2024, when the parties will need to reach a new agreement. American has satellite operations in Griswold and in Ledyard. For surrounding towns, American provides mutual aid for locally run ambulance services.

    In its application seeking approval for the acquisition from the state Department of Public Health’s Office of Emergency Medical Services, Hartford HealthCare pledged to meet or exceed the level of service offered by the previous owner, The American Group, headed by Michael Aliano, son of the founder.

    “Hartford HealthCare came in and really looked at what was needed for infrastructure and capital equipment,” Beaulieu said Thursday.

    Beaulieu, 49, of Tolland started at American Ambulance on Nov. 20. He retired earlier that month after 25 years in fire and emergency management in Manchester. He also served as vice chairman of the state Emergency Management Services Advisory Board.

    Five new ambulances with advanced equipment were delivered during the winter to replace aging vehicles. Along with medical equipment, the ambulances have motorized stretchers to reduce lifting and the risk of back injuries for EMTs and paramedics, Beaulieu said. The company plans to replace five ambulances per year with Ford gasoline-powered vehicles. The first five were Mercedes diesel ambulances.

    Hartford HealthCare increased staffing by about 40 employees, and raised wages for EMTs and paramedics to improve recruiting, Beaulieu said. The company is looking for EMTs and support staff.

    The company now has about 200 employees, includig EMTs and paramedics to staff 15 to 17 ambulances per day. The company has licenses for 29 ambulances and has 19 vehicles.

    In the spacious ambulance garage bay on Thursday, two smaller ambulances sporting American Ambulance’s old checkered blue pattern, are retired, and parked in the corner, only used as backups, Beaulieu said. Three Mercedes ambulances were parked in a row, a new Ford ambulance returned from a call and joined the group.

    Upstairs, six employees staffed the emergency dispatch center, where Hartford HealthCare replaced a late 1980s-era dispatch console with an array of large screens, computers and radios.

    One dispatcher answers the call, talks to the person to assess the medical needs. A second dispatcher alerts the ambulance crew. Two large screens above display the patient’s information, flanked by a screen to the left showing a map of the region pinpointing the locations of currently dispatched ambulances, sometimes 20 at a time, Beaulieu said.

    Seated behind the dispatchers, one team communicates with the hospital about the patient and another tracks billing information.

    Emergency dispatchers do more than set ambulances in motion, Beaulieu said. They give instructions to the caller on what to do before the ambulance arrives, whether it be a cardiac emergency, fall, severe bleeding or injury.

    “All the work going into keeping people calm, giving them instructions, making them feel that help is coming and managing 20 ambulances on the road and the other resources they manage,” Beaulieu said. “These guys really knock it out of the park.”

    Norwich Alderman Mark Bettencourt, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, toured American Ambulance Tuesday and received an overview of the transition. On Wednesday, the Public Safety Committee met for its regular May meeting in the building lobby.

    “It looks like they’re trying to do a good integration with American Ambulance, keeping the local identity,” Bettencourt said. “They’re certainly investing significant money into the place, so that’s good.”

    Beaulieu said American Ambulance plans to be active in the Norwich community. The company started working with local fire departments on training. American Ambulance is working with Griswold firefighters on a Narcan program. Beaulieu hopes to help with community CPR and bleeding control classes.

    “We’re still scaling up community outreach,” Beaulieu said. “We are a community health provider. We are in the streets. That’s where we work. We are in the houses, we are in the streets. We are part of the community.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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