Gaines tables ambulance contract with Monroe so it can compare proposal from Mercy Flight

Photo by Tom Rivers: Mike Gugliuzza, director of medical operations for Mercy Flight EMS, said the organization will provide ambulance services in central Orleans while the towns determine the long-term provider. He asked Gaines officials to consider Mercy Flight for the service.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 November 2022 at 8:33 am

GAINES – The Town Board tabled voting on an ambulance contract on Tuesday evening, saying it wants more time to consider a proposal from Mercy Fight EMS.

Town supervisors from seven towns in Orleans have been meeting with Monroe Ambulance officials about a contract for eastern and central Orleans.

Monroe already has a contract for eastern Orleans – Clarendon, Murray and Kendall – but doesn’t station an ambulance in the county. With the contract, Monroe would keep an ambulance in Holley and one in Albion. The agreement calls for the seven towns to share a $200,000 stipend to Monroe with the shares based on call volume.

Mercy Flight, which took over COVA operations on Sunday, is proposing a $185,000 contract with two ambulances with paramedics 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and another ambulance for 12 hours a day, seven days a week that would be basic life support.

The towns of Albion and Barre have already approved the agreement with Monroe, however if even one of the seven towns doesn’t approve the contract the deal is “null and void.”

Richard DeCarlo, co-owner of Heritage Estates in Gaines, urged the Gaines board to do its due diligence in reviewing and comparing the proposals. DeCarlo said it looked to him like Mercy Flight was offering better service at a lower cost, and also has hired 40 of the COVA employees.

He also asked the Town Board to compare the rates that will be charged residents for ambulance transports. That should be a factor considered by the board.

Gaines Town Councilman Ken Rush said the Mercy proposal doesn’t break out the share due by Gaines. With the Monroe agreement, Gaines would pay $24,600. That cost would come out of the town’s federal funds through the American Rescue Plan Act and wouldn’t affect the local taxpayers, Town Supervisor Tyler Allport said.

Rush said thanked Mercy Flight for stepping in as COVA ceased operations and for hiring the 40 local paramedics and other field staff.

“Personally I want to go with Mercy Flight,” Rush said. “If we go with Mercy Flight, what does that mean to Gaines for the cost?”

Mike Gugliuzza, director of medical operations for Mercy Flight EMS, said the organization would break out the number for Gaines as part of a seven-town agreement. He said it would likely be cost prohibitive for Gaines to be the only town in an agreement with Mercy Flight.

Ron Mannella, a Gaines town councilman, said Gaines could talk with Carlton officials about at least a two-town agreement. Or, Manella said, if Gaines doesn’t go with Monroe and it makes that agreement “null and void,” the other towns might come back to the table to hear out Mercy Flight.

DeCarlo said the towns for too long avoided paying towards ambulance services. COVA tried in recent years to get funding from the towns but that never happened.

“The COVA can has been kicked down the road for years,” DeCarlo said during Tuesday’s meeting. “We’ve run out of road.”

Allport said the seven towns felt a sense of urgency in working on an agreement with Monroe Ambulance. The leaders of the towns wanted ambulance services for residents if COVA closed.

Now that Mercy Flight has taken over those operations, Gugliuzza said central Orleans can be assured there will be high-level service while the towns work out an ambulance contract.

The deal with Monroe calls for them to start on Jan. 1. Monroe said it will stage ambulances in Albion and Holley, but those locations haven’t been disclosed yet.

Gaines will have its next regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 12. That will give the Town Board time to compare the proposals from Monroe and Mercy Flight.

COVA representatives attended the meeting on Tuesday. Allport asked them how the organization will be handling its debt, whether that would be passed to Mercy Flight. Jennifer Stilwell, COVA president, said Mercy Flight won’t have any of COVA’s debt. COVA can bill for its services up until the transition to Mercy Flight at 12:01 a.m. this past Sunday.

Those invoices plus a $150,000 employee retention credit should satisfy any outstanding bills, she said.

“We have every intention of paying off our debt,” she said.

If Mercy secures a contract for ambulance services for the community, Gugliuzza said Mercy would look to acquire the COVA base and its ambulances. If Monroe is chosen, Mercy would provide service up until when Monroe is ready, and then Mercy would “bow out,” Gugliuzza said.

Councilman Rush commended the COVA organization for its 43 years of service to the community.

“Thank you COVA,” Rush said. “You’ve been there for my family and my friends.”