By Bill Cleary
Gloucester City Council passed a resolution at Thursday's meeting by a 4-1 vote to hire an outside contractor to provide ambulance service for the City. Voting for the measure was Mayor William James, Councilman Jay Brophy, Councilman Bruce Parry, and Councilman John Hutchinson. Voting no was Councilwoman Kelly Ferry. Absent were Councilmen Marchese and Spencer. The contract was awarded to Lourdes Health System. The contract calls for Lourdes to provide Basic Life Ambulance Service to residents for three years starting April 1.
Image: Lourdes provides ambulance service for the Township of Pemberton along with several other communities
According to City Solicitor John Kearney Lourdes will provide a two person crew 24/7 to operate out of a City building using City emergency vehicles.
Kearney said the only cost to the taxpayer for this service will be for the gas that will be used to run the vehicle.
"Lourdes will use the same billing company that the City has used over the past few years. Bills for services will go to patients and their insurance company. If there is no insurance and and no ability to pay Lourdes and its billing service will not pursue persons for payment. Lourdes has a philosophical commitment to help and the City expects to see that commitment shine forward in the ambulance service. Lourdes will pay its costs out of the funds it receives from the billing service. If there is income above operation expenses that will be split. If a new ambulance is needed Lourdes will buy it," said Kearney.
Asked if any City EMT's/firemen will be laid off, Kearney said, "It is unknown whether or not this will have any impact on staffing at the fire department. At the very least it should relieve what pressure there may be at the Fire Department concerning staffing."
Asked why the resolution did not appear on the agenda for Thursday's meeting, "The review of the submitted proposals was completed a few hours prior to the meeting and in light of the fire department concerns over staffing the decision was made to move forward in as speedy a process as is allowed by the law," he said.
The City laid off 8 of the 31 member fire department in December because, according to the statement released by mayor and council at the time, “Refusal of union leaders to revise their position on onerous, expensive work rules have left Gloucester City with no choice but to issue layoff notices to eight fire-fighters, effective December 23."
A firefighter, who didn't want to be identified, said that moral is very low among the remaining firefighters. "Because of the recent layoffs and the uncertainty of the future everyone is moping around. We knew the City was seeking bids for the ambulance service but many of us were shocked to learn a contract had been awarded. You would have thought the City would have given us a heads up. Along with some explanation of what the future holds. But nothing. Not a peep. Instead we have to read about it on the Internet."