EDITORIAL: Regionalizing Groton's Emergency Medical Service Is A Bad Idea
Town Manager Haddad’s proposal to regionalize Groton’s Emergency Medical Service by expanding into Dunstable was a bad idea, an idea that would degrade service for Groton residents and increase long-term costs.
Perhaps, realizing that the proposal needs a lot more thought, Selectmen voted to withdraw it from Spring Town Meeting Warant at their last meeting. Although it was withdrawn, the proposal is still under long-term consideration, along with the possibility of extending Groton Fire Service to Dunstable.
Therefore, it is not too early for voters, taxpayers and residents to think about the benefits and pitfalls of regionalizing services with Dunstable.
Geographically Groton is a very large town. Adding Dunstable to our service-area footprint would degrade emergency service response for Groton residents. Imagine a Groton ambulance heading out Chicopee Row for an emergency call in Dunstable. Then, imagine another call coming in from West Groton on the opposite side of the new regional service area. This example alone shows this plan is not in the best interests of Groton residents.
Every EMS call from Dunstable would require ambulances traveling down long, narrow, twisting Chicopee Row, or even worse, Old Dunstable Road. How could we effectively service such a vast area on inadequate roadways without dramatically increasing spending and lengthening response time?
Groton’s EMS team is half volunteer, volunteers motivated by a desire to help town residents. If Dunstable was added to our service area, we would no longer be a town-based service partly driven by a neighbor-helping-neighbor ethic, but a deracinated regional service without an emotional bond to Groton residents. Once that bond was broken, there would be a move to full-paid emergency medical service with all associated costs. Guess who would bear those costs?
Currently, Dunstable employs a commercial EMS service dispatched from Lowell. It is no wonder Dunstable is seeking an ambulance service with better response times. They offered to compensate Groton for servicing their EMS needs by paying the cost of one full-time EMS person. In our view, the cost of one EMS technician is hardly enough to compensate for degraded service and, in the long run, higher costs for Groton residents.
Even without factoring in Dunstable’s needs, Groton Fire Chief Steele McCurdy says Groton needs to consider adding some full-time paid personnel to Groton’s Fire Department/EMS Service. [All personnel hired by Chief MCcurdy are cross-trained and certified for both fire fighting and EMS.]
Once we have strengthened Groton’s firefighting and EMS service, it might be worthwhile to have a wide-ranging discussion about offering some additional services to Dunstable. But now is not that time. First, we need to focus on solving and stabilizing Groton’s Emergency Medical Service. Let’s take care of our own first.
This half-baked proposal is typical of some other budget ideas in vogue at Town Hall. It was right to deep-six it before wasting energy counting all the ways it was a terrible idea.