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County council throws ambulance corps a lifeline

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Sep 20 2012 10:51:58 PM CDT
Ambulance
EASTON, Pa. -

A volunteer ambulance corps that provides medical transport services for Gracedale residents dodged a financial bullet Thursday night.

After hearing impassioned pleas not to switch providers, county council threw the Nazareth Volunteer Ambulance Corps a lifeline by delaying a vote on a proposed one-year, $315,600 contract with low bidder Lifestar Response.

Nazareth corps members said after the meeting that Nazareth has had a contract with the county for the last six years. They said the current two-year agreement ends on Oct. 31.

Nazareth corps members told council that up to 75 percent of Nazareth's 37 full- and part-time workers would be out of a job if the county approved a contract with someone else.

Neither administration officials, council members or Nazareth corps members could say with certainty how much more Nazareth's bid was.

But Ross Marcus, the county's director of human services, told wfmz.com after the meeting he had a piece of correspondence that said Lifestar's bid was $30,000 a year less than the nearest competitor.
"But I don't know that figure to be factually correct," he stressed.

Opponents of the Lifestar contract said sticking with Nazareth would insure a better response time for Gracedale residents -- about four minutes -- because Lifestar would be sending their ambulances from Bethlehem -- about 20 minutes away.

Mike Snyder said he's been a Nazareth paramedic for 15 years, and Nazareth "knows the building, knows the staff and knows the procedures."

He also said contracting with Lifestar would be "a death blow" to the Nazareth corps. "I'm all for the government saving money whenever possible, but we should be keeping jobs local," he told council.
"These [would be] jobs lost in Northampton County, to a company based in New Jersey! And their parent company is not even in the United States!"

Nancy Jacoby, who said she's been with the Nazareth corps for two-and- a-half years, echoed Snyder's sentiments. "We know these people [at Gracedale] day in, day out," she said, adding that two of her in-laws are in Gracedale.

William Schrack, a volunteer firefighter and EMT from Bangor, said owes it to Gracedale residents to "do some more research" before awarding the contract. "Our families, our parents, our grandparents are living there," he said.

Council was persuaded by their arguments, and the presence of almost two dozen corps members. "Seventy-five percent of the people losing their jobs will cost [the county] money," said council member Barbara Thierry.

As suggested by council member Bruce Gilbert, council member Scott Parsons will sit down with Nazareth and Lifestar representatives to go over the proposed contract and report back to council.

Council member Ken Kraft asked Gilbert to find out "Are we pulling a Walmart [by going with the low bidder]? Do they [Lifestar employees] make enough that they can afford to go to the hospital? ... Find out what they [Lifestar] are paying their people. Having a revolving door of people working for them is not saving money in the long run."