Last week the Lloyd Town Board said they are not able to pay Mobile Life an additional $103,000 for their ambulance services. The board has extended the terms of the 2020 contract through the end of February in hopes of finding a solution to this impasse with the company. Last year Lloyd paid Mobile Life $223,368 and without any adjustments the increase would bring this year’s total to $326,368.
Councilman Lenny Auchmoody said Mobile Life has come back with some suggestions, which he will circulate to the other board members for their review. He indicated that the company is aware of the town’s fiscal constraints but for the long view the town may have to find another provider for their emergency services.
Councilman Joe Mazzetti has been negotiating on this contract with Auchmoody.
“We pay a fee for all of our townspeople to get ambulatory service through Mobile Life. It’s not that we’re unhappy with the service or that we’re giving them a hard time about their contract but they didn’t come to us before we started the budget,” he said. “After the budget and the tax cap was done, they told us they wanted an additional $103,000 above what they’re already getting and that’s why were in the situation that we’re at.”
Mazzetti and Auchmoody stressed to Mobile Life that the town is unable to pay them the additional increase.
“Lenny was really the champion through this and has been very diplomatic; I was very impressed,” Mazzetti said. “They have to understand that we are a municipality and our taxpayers can’t be on the hook for whatever these people want to charge us.”
Mazzetti told the board that the town should have been looking at other companies several years ago, “to see what they could do with the amount of money we can spend. I’ll be honest with you I’m really not pleased how hardball this company’s playing with us. In a service industry they should have a little bit of understanding that we are in covid and I understand they’re having a hard time, but we have a budget cap and our townspeople are having hard times but maybe we should see what we can get for that price from all the companies that are out there.”
Scott Woebse, President and CEO of Mobile Life Support Services, added his perspective about the ongoing negotiations with the Town of Lloyd. In recent months he has found that Lloyd has been requesting more services than the calls bring in revenue. Presently, Lloyd has one ambulance unit that is on duty for 24 hours every day of the week and one unit that is on for 12 hours, 7 days a week from 7am to 7pm, “just to cover the quantity of volume and how it is spread out in the town.”
Woebse said the reason for the $103,000 increase is due to the impacts of Covid-19.
“It just slammed not only Mobile Life but EMS throughout the country,” he said. “Our expenses went up through the roof as far as trying to acquire PPE [Personal Protection Equipment] and the number of lost work days we had of staff being quarantined or who were sick. We had 40 staff members who actually contracted the disease to date and fortunately no one has died...We have literally been the front line of the front line in this.”
Woebse said another contributing factor to the increase is that the call volume in Lloyd dropped off significantly, “between 20 and 30%.” He said during the 12 years Mobile Life has been servicing the town, their rate has either stayed even and in some years actually was lower than the present $223K amount.
Woebse said prior to COVID, “our expenses have continually gone up because we’ve been getting increases in volume; the more calls we do, the more revenue we generate and offsets what the town subsidy is. We have never seen a drop off like we saw with covid.”
Woebse said the most considerable drop off in Lloyd was in the skilled nursing facilities and in the adult home segments of the population.
“Basically, from mid March on they hunkered in and they were not sending patients out,” he said.
Woebse said for the non nursing home 911 calls, his company saw a rise in the number of patients refusing transport to the hospital because of rising cases of Covid-19. This also negatively impacted Mobile Life’s bottom line.
Woebse said in 2019 Mobile Life answered a total of 2,440 calls in Lloyd and in 2020 that number was 2,037- a decrease of 403 calls.
Woebse said the claim by the Town Board that his request for an increase came after the Town Budget and tax cap were set is not the case. He said he contacted the town in late September and met with Supervisor Pizzuto at the town hall on October 9, bringing their situation fully to his attention. He did not hear anything further until a subsequent meeting in November with Councilmen Mazzetti and Auchmoody where he restated what he had told the Supervisor in October.
“The characterization that we didn’t come to them, I’m going to have to dispute that,” he said. “I came to them in early October.”
Woebse said one suggestion for saving money that is under consideration would be to keep the 24/7 advanced life support unit but taking the second, 12 hour unit and changing that from an advanced unit to a basic unit. The advanced life support ambulance employs a highly trained but more expensive paramedic while the basic unit has an EMT on board.
“We’re trying to spend our dollars in a smart way,” he said. “We’re trying to figure this out so we’re not affecting public health care. We’re really working hard on this.”
In subsequent interviews Councilmen Mazzetti and Auchmoody spoke of their experience with Mobile Life.
Mazzetti said even though the Supervisor was not forthcoming with information of the October meeting, he said Mobile Life should have apprised the town of their financial situation much earlier than the fall, when at that point the budget is very near completion.
Mazzetti said Mobile Life refused to operate this year on what the town paid them in 2020 and when asked to come up with alternatives, “we had to continually ask them for it. It was almost like pulling teeth to get it from them. I think for some reason they were under the impression we were going to give them the $103,000. They didn’t want to work with us at all.”
Councilman Auchmoody agrees with Mazzetti that Mobile Life should have spoken up much sooner if they wanted to effect change in the ambulance contract figures.
“I told him come back and tell me what you can do with the amount of money that we have available,” Auchmoody told Woebse.
Still under discussion is moving the day ambulance from Route 299 over to the firehouse where the 24/7 one is stationed and asking if the fire department would forego the $1,000/mo rent.
A final contract is expected to be completed with Mobile Life next month to cover 2021.