BECKET — Two neighboring south county towns will explore whether sharing their ambulance services would improve service and reduce costs.
At the next meeting of the Becket Select Board on March 22, board members will delve into combining ambulance services with the town of Otis.
The Becket Select Board planned to discuss the matter Wednesday night, but the snowstorm canceled the meeting.
“This will be our first step, discussing it with our ambulance director [Ray Ferrin],” said Katherine Warden, Becket town administrator. “We could share the cost, but there are a lot of things to work out, including what we are trying to achieve.”
Brandi Page, Otis town administrator, said because the process is just starting, she preferred not to comment.
For years, state officials have encouraged rural towns to share services to reduce costs. In fact, Lee and Stockbridge also are considering sharing fire protection and ambulance services.
A challenge for both Otis and Becket is a shortage of certified EMTs to work weekend and night shifts, a common problem in the county, as well as the nation.
A potential snag: “Otis uses a private ambulance company,” Bill Elovirta, chairman of the Becket Select Board said, while Becket’s service is town-operated. “So that would have to be worked out. The town [Otis] would have to have complete control of the service.”
The two towns, he said, enjoy a good, collaborative relationship, and through mutual-aid calls, the two ambulance outfits already work well together.
“It could work, as long as it is reciprocal for both of us,” Elovirta said, adding that Otis officials contacted Becket about the idea “about a year ago or so.”
Becket’s ambulance squad owns one ambulance and one utility SUV, which is used to stabilize patients while the ambulance is on another call, he said. Becket has three full-time EMTs, with other part-time EMT to fill the gaps.
Otis is served by the Otis Rescue Squad, an independent service provider that owns an ambulance and utility vehicle, Elovirta said. It is staffed by two full-timers who work the day shift Monday through Friday. Any other calls would depend on part-time, on-call EMTs.
Ferrin, the Becket ambulance director, said uncertainty is obvious at this point. “I’m just coming into this discussion,” he said. “I mean, we haven’t determined yet if it’s even a possibility. So it’s a very fluid concept at this point.”
Becket Ambulance covers 48 square miles, while Otis Rescue covers 38 square miles.
The closest hospital to Becket is 35 miles away, Ferrin said.
If the agreement comes about, Ferrin said the ideal arrangement would be to have two ambulances on duty at all times for the two towns.