NORTH ADAMS >> The town of Rowe has contracted the North Adams Ambulance Service to be its primary medical emergency responder.
The Select Board of the Franklin County town of nearly 400 residents hopes the move will result in faster emergency response times. Rowe is located northeast of the town of Florida, and is roughly an 18-mile drive from North Adams along Route 2 and other rural roads.
After enduring response times between 50 minutes to an hour due to the volunteer nature of its former ambulance provider, Rowe town leadership found the 25- to 30-minute travel time offered by North Adams Ambulance Service to be a better option.
The Charlemont Ambulance Service, a volunteer unit, was having trouble staffing EMTs on their ambulances, so responding to calls in Rowe became difficult, according to Marilyn Wilson, chairwoman of the Rowe Select Board.
"We live in a very remote area," Wilson said. "So it's hard for a volunteer ambulance service logistically to get to Rowe in a timely manner. And it's another 50 minutes to get to the nearest hospital."
Janice Boudreau, the administrative clerk at Rowe Town Hall, said an emergency call in October had an ambulance response time of 52 minutes.
"Response time became a real issue," she said. "We've been discussing it for months."
Rowe has had 32 medical emergency calls in the past 18 months, Boudreau said.
North Adams Ambulance Service always has a paramedic on staff and EMTs in its ambulances, so they can begin many treatment procedures on arrival at the scene, Williams said. With five vehicles on call 24 hours a day, the North Adams agency is well prepared to respond to emergencies in Rowe, she said.
"And they're quite amazing with community outreach," Wilson said.
Wilson said North Adams personnel already have had a training session with fire and police personnel in Rowe, and have agreed to stand by at fires to treat any injuries.
Amalio Jusino, the North Adams Ambulance assistant chief, said that because Rowe is nearby and the call volume is not very high, the additional workload will not overtax the operation, nor will the additional revenue from calls in Rowe make a significant difference to the operation.
"We didn't see it negatively impacting our ability to serve this community," Jusino said. "And now Rowe can be assured there will be someone responding."
He said the training session was meant to give their police and fire personnel a better idea of the equipment North Adams Ambulance works with and how they approach the scene of an emergency.
The town paid Charlemont Ambulance Service $3,000 a year because it is a volunteer outfit, Boudreau said. Since the North Adams Ambulance Service is compensated by health insurance, the town doesn't have to pay anything. As part of the arrangement, the town also will have a representative on the ambulance service's board of directors.
Boudreau said the joint first responders training session showed that North Adams Ambulance "is committed to working as a team, and we were very impressed with that."
The Select Board authorized the contract with the North Adams Ambulance Service on Dec. 1.