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‘Time To Update’

Alstar Opts Out Of Mutual Aid Agreement With City

Alstar EMS has notified city officials that it will no longer operate under a mutual agreement to refund the city a certain dollar amount for each emergency call handled by the Jamestown Fire Department. The agreement was signed in 1996, UPMC officials said Thursday. P-J file photo by Eric Tichy

There has been a change in a mutual response call agreement between the city of Jamestown and Alstar EMS.

On Thursday, Eddie Sundquist, Jamestown mayor, told The Post-Journal that city officials have been notified that Alstar has optioned out of a mutual aid agreement to refund the city a certain dollar amount for each emergency call the Jamestown Fire Department handles. Sundquist said the city and Alstar had operated under the agreement for many years, with Alstar being the primary responder and the city the secondary responder during emergency ambulance calls.

The former WCA Hospital, now known as UPMC Chautauqua, with a division known as Alstar EMS, is the primary provider of EMS transport in the city.

The Jamestown Fire Department isn’t the primary ambulance service provider for the city, but fills in when Alstar is out of service.

Cecil Miller, UPMC Chautauqua vice president of operations, said UPMC officials sent the notification to city officials because they would like a new agreement. The previous one was first signed in the mid-1990s.

“The contract dates back to 1996. We felt it’s time to update it,” Miller said. “We’ve also requested to meet with the mayor and city officials to discuss the future of EMS calls in the city.”

Miller said there are a lot of untrue rumors circulating in the city that Alstar is going out of business.

“That is not the case,” he said.

Because of the change in the mutual aid agreement between the city and Alstar EMS, Sundquist said the timeline has condensed for city officials to develop a request for proposals to possibly find a new ambulance service provider.

Earlier this month, Sundquist said city officials were in the process of drafting a request for proposal notification to be sent to ambulance service providers. He said following the bid process, if an ambulance service company is selected, they would be the main responder to emergencies in the city, with the city’s fire department as a secondary responder.

Sundquist said city officials want the request for proposals to be done by early February. He said city officials need to alleviate the number of ambulance service calls the Jamestown Fire Department has been answering in recent years. He said when Alstar first started in the city during the mid-1980s, the city’s fire department was only responding to around 50 calls for ambulance service a year. He said last year, the fire department responded to more than 1,000 ambulance service calls.

In September, Harry Snellings, Jamestown Police Department chief and city public safety director, said when comparing the first six months of calls in 2018 to 2019, the Jamestown Fire Department increased its calls for service by 52.3% and mutual aid from outside city departments increased by 135%.

Sundquist said ambulance service providers other than Alstar have notified city officials of their interest in provide medical assistance to the city. He said his team is “optimistic” about finding an ambulance service provider for the city.

Miller said he acknowledges why city officials are looking into possibly contracting with a new ambulance service provider because of the reduction in the number calls Alstar has responded to in recent years.

“Everyone realizes we have struggled and we have staffing issues. We struggle at being fully staffed. That is why we’re not able to go to the normal amount of calls. But we’ve had no discussion about us getting out of the business,” he said. “We understand why (city officials) would do that (prepare a request for proposals for ambulance services). That is why we need to sit down with the mayor and his team to talk about the future. We want what is best for the city. That is our goal. We are a hospital. That is our core business. We want to make sure the service is provided to city residents.”

Sundquist did say that the proposal made last year by former Mayor Sam Teresi for the city to possibly start providing ambulance service has been nixed.

“I don’t feel that is the best course of action,” Sundquist said.

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