Thursday, November 10, 2011

UMass doubles down on AFD

AFD Central Station

Over the past couple weekends our overstretched emergency services first responders--you know the ones who proudly emblazon "Amherst" on all their vehicles--had to rely on neighboring fire departments to cover calls because all five Amherst ambulances were tied up dealing with inebriated students.

A few years back, UMass, our largest employer, essentially banned alcohol on campus--thus pushing the problem into surrounding neighborhoods and Amherst town center (much to the delight of some bars and slumlords).

Now our economic Juggernaut has arrogantly decided to reduce Health Services hours on campus thus shifting even more of the burden onto our already stressed-to-the-breaking-point Fire Department. This is unacceptable. Either UMass should donate enough money to hire a few additional Amherst firefighters or continue to be responsible for their students health needs.

According to their $100,300 annual salary Senior Public Relations Manager Ed Blaguszewski, "The reduction in hours could mean a bump in ambulance service calls to take students to area hospitals. It’s too soon to tell.”

Easy for him say--he lives in Greenfield!



UMass Health Center

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don't reduce the Health Services hours, or pay for a few additional Amherst firefighters.

Neither would save them money which is the point.

Amherst really needs to get out of the College Town business.

LarryK4 said...

No, Amherst just needs to stand up once in a while, open the window and scream "I'm mad as Hell and I'm not taking it anymore!"

Anonymous said...

This is just shocking and appalling. So much money for new buildings, none to care for the bodies and minds of the students.

This is unfortunately telling about UMass priotities.

Anonymous said...

unfortunately larry throwing a temper tantrum won't cut it. umass has long had amherst by the short hairs and "we" let it happen.

i'm of the opinion many fiscal/budget and legal issues boil down to a social origin. this progressive notion of letting kids be kids ad infinitum (after all- those groovy baby-boomers are running the zoo) and hopping in bed with anyone with deep pockets has resulted in an indulgent and corrupt society, er, town. problem is that getting to the root of the real problem is far more difficult than any band aid approach. not that i'm suggesting putting up a stink is a superficial response; it's just not enough.

amherst has kissed umass butt, and sucked up to special interest, for so long that, in the words of chairman barry's favorite pastor, the chickens have come home to roost.

i don't know what the solution to this problem is but perhaps it's time for us to draw a line in the sand. amherst has to claim its ground.

i have my doubts amherst residents have the collective spine for it.

~ecosse (happy birthday usmc!)

Anonymous said...

The University Health Services not only serves students, but also many families of students and campus workers. A reduction in hours will close off one of the few "after hours" urgent care centers on this side of the Coolidge Bridge. Whether it's alcohol poisoning or someone who tripped on a rock and broke a wrist, now the UHS will be unavailable and people might be using the ambulance simply because they cannot walk that far (and don't have a car). Sad.

Anonymous said...

it's doubles down not double downs

LarryK4 said...

Thanks. I never was much of a blackjack player.

Ed said...

I don't know why I even bother asking this Larry, but do you or do you not wish to have Amherst remain in control of its own operations?

Amherst could bulldoze all the slums tomorrow -- the ARA could do it, it would cost you a pretty penny in costs (including alternate housing for the UM kids living there, per state law) but you could do it. And you didn't have to let the slums be built in the first place over the past 100 years or so.

But until then, you have low income housing. Some of which is rented by UM kids and some by Section 8 Single Mothers. Why are the students different? Are you asking the AHA to pay for the services that its tenants use?

Aren't the property taxes of the units in which these students live paying for the services they use?

Isn't the 100% fee payment helping the AFD budget -- when they take a Section 8 person to the hospital, if they get *ANYTHING* it will be maybe 20% of what the bill is -- and if they take you it will only be what your insurance company pays -- probably less than 50% of what they bill.

And if they take a homeless person, they don't get anything.

So you have some citizens who pay 3-5 times what everyone else does for the same service and you complain?!?!?

Hell, run this like a business -- I would want as many UM students in my ambulances as possible because you are making money on these customers! Furthermore, you need less resources for an ETOH run than, say, a stabbing where you are going straight to BayState and hoping for the best.

Unless the AFD is incredibly mismanaged or choked by union rules, the more UM students you have, the better the bottom line will look.

And Larry, I don't think those were all ETOH runs. How many of them were involuntary psych commitments?" That is not being mentioned here because of the civil liberties issues....

Anonymous said...

All UMass students must have health insurance because it is required by the University. They pay what anyone with health insurance pays for ambulance services.

And it's not that we do not want the students to use the ambulances, we need to know how large the force must be. You cannot hire someone for "only when school is in session." EMT's and trained professionals are employed on a yearly basis.

Anonymous said...

Ed, who is in the ambulance, for what and how much they pay is beside the point.
Our town needs to increase those on duty because they are short staffed and constantly having to call in ambulances from other towns which wastes time. I don't want to wait for that, do you?
Shaffer ignored it but maybe Musante won't.

LarryK4 said...

And he has first-hand (or should I say "first-head") experience on how valuable a quick response can be.

Ed said...

They pay what anyone with health insurance pays for ambulance services.

No, the 100% Amherst reimbersement means that UM insurance costs more for less. Talk to GEO, talk to the women with tens of thousands of dollars of copays for childbirth...

You cannot hire someone for "only when school is in session." EMT's and trained professionals are employed on a yearly basis.

No, you can shift your staff a variety of ways -- first, you only do training when school is not in session. Or you hire private ambulances to backfill, like Northampton does. Or you get into some arrangement where some of your guys work summers in vacation resorts -- or work fewer hours or whatever.

It seems to be friday nights that the staffing issue is -- perhaps it is a management/staffing problem of having enough people but not scheduling them right...

Anonymous said...

Every time Ed posts I think of that old Saturday Night Live skit..."Jane, you ignorant slut"

The Voice said...

I know UMass has discussed a student EMT squad which would evaluate first-responder calls. The irony here is that UMass makes up a sizeable percentage of the fire department. Maybe the university should charge those in the nursing homes and give that to the town...

Anonymous said...

theres not just an infinite amount of money that amherst can have all the resources and more for what it might need, and five ambulances is a lot for a town to have is can be seen financially that adding more might be seemingly impossible. it's also not uncommon for any fire department in any town to request the services of other FD's in surrounding communities, it wouldn't even be impossible or even unlikely to request the services of multiple other towns. if only we had an endless amount of money and get everything we want

Anonymous said...

UMass makes up a sizeable percentage of the fire department. <--um, no.

Anonymous said...

I’d like to comment on a few things.
"UMASS makes up a sizeable percentage of the fire department". Actually, there are a number of UMASS students who are a part of our department. They are student volunteer firefighters, and they play a limited role in our operations as their experience level is limited and they are generally supervised by a full time officer or firefighter when on responses. Some of them are basic EMTs, however they do not operate our ambulances.

“I know UMass has discussed a student EMT squad which would evaluate first-responder calls.” UMASS has a group of students who are basic level EMTs. They are organized under the title of “UMASS EMS”. They currently only provide coverage at events around the campus and do not respond to incidents on a day to day basis. Using them to respond to incidents on campus would not alleviate the call volume to any extent because they do not operate an ambulance and almost certainly will not for the foreseeable future. Thus regardless of their presence, an AFD ambulance would still be required to respond.

"Unless the AFD is incredibly mismanaged or choked by union rules, the more UM students you have, the better the bottom line will look." This is not a question of our "bottom line" or "union rules", it is a question of staffing. We simply do not have adequate staff to handle the volume of calls we are receiving. Anything that has the possibility of increasing this volume concerns us. As I sit here and type this, at 12:30 on a Tuesday, we have toned out for off duty firefighters to cover the station for the 2nd time since 8am. While weekend nights certainly are quite busy, the call volume is up overall. Please keep in mind that we do not only operate ambulances. The fire department responds to fires of all kinds, hazardous materials situations, technical rescues, search and rescue situations, electrical and water hazards, really anything that a resident feels is beyond their control or hazardous...we get the call. If all of the on duty staff is running ambulance calls, who is minding the store? As far as Northampton "hiring private ambulances", actually, they do not. There is a private ambulance company with an office in the city and the will provide an ambulance to Northampton they have one available. Since we are speaking of Northampton Fire, their minimum staffing level is 14, which is DOUBLE that of Amherst. Five ambulances is not a large number for a town the size of Amherst. Furthermore, most of the time we are not able to staff the 5th ambulance as our minimum staffing level is seven. This isn't about how many ambulances we have, it’s about how many people we have to put in those ambulances, and in the fire trucks, remember them?

No, there is not an infinite pot of money, we are certainly all quite aware of this. The question is, where does the town wish to spend the money that is available. This is ultimately a choice that the town and its residents will need to make. Is the risk of waiting for an ambulance or fire engine to respond from Northampton or elsewhere acceptable, or would they rather make the commitment to adequately staff the fire department? That in the end is the question.

Jeff Parr
Amherst Firefighters
IAFF Local-1764

Anonymous said...

Ed said...

... the 100% Amherst reimbersement means that UM insurance costs more for less. Talk to GEO, talk to the women with tens of thousands of dollars of copays for childbirth...

Actually, you're wrong.

UMass student health insurance costs $1,185. per semester. There is a $200 annual deductible. After that, most services are covered for 100% of charges, including doctor's visits, hospitalization, physical therapy, chiropractic care and maternity expenses, abortions, acupuncture, etc. Prescription drugs are $20 for generic, $30 for brand name.

Student insurance offers better coverage at a lower price than most employer-based health plans.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Parr
Amherst Firefighters
IAFF Local-1764 <-- Thank you for the facts. And thank you for the great service with inadequate staffing levels.