Northampton County Council: Nazareth gets Gracedale contract
Nazareth Ambulance Corps (NAC) will most likely continue to provide service to Gracedale, the county-owned nursing home.
Despite recommendations from Gracedale's administration for LifeStar Response, a large 75-vehicle fleet with offices in Bethlehem, Northampton County Council at its Oct. 4 meeting opposed hiring LifeStar for Gracedale's non-emergency medical transport of residents.
By a 7-2 vote, a new resolution introduced by Councilman Tom Dietrich approved retaining the Nazareth transport service. NAC's contract is set to expire Oct. 31.
Council's decision was met by cheers, tears and tweets from the council meeting room filled with many NAC employees and board members. At the meeting's conclusion, Councilman Lamont McClure suggested that the medical transport services Request For Proposals (RFPs) may need to be rebid.
Last month, council had ruled to allow NAC to meet with Gracedale's administration, county council representatives and county human services administrators to review the local ambulance service's contract bid.
Responding to Gracedale administrator Millard Freeman's summary of the re-interview of the three finalists bidding for the three-year contract, Council President John Cusick and Councilman Scott Parsons continued to support LifeStar's hiring.
"It comes down to dollars and cents," Parsons said. Hiring LifeStar would have saved the county $31,000 each year of the contract. LifeStar's proposal had a $315,000 price tag for one year of service. While he didn't like to see the Nazareth service lose the contract, and said he believed the three finalists were treated equally in the bidding process, Parsons said there were no subsidies to reimburse Gracedale for this expense.
Councilwoman Peg Ferraro responded: "The lowest bidder isn't always practical. I think we have a moral responsibility to take care of our own." Ferraro's comments were met by applause as she highlighted the jobs to Northampton County residents and the human quality to Gracedale residents awarding NAC the contract provides.
Freeman addressed the concerns raised by council and the Nazareth ambulance service about hiring LifeStar. A written summary documented LifeStar's responses. Most concerns focused on LifeStar's investment in the community, quality of care, response time and its pay and benefits. Of its 254 employees, LifeStar has 144 who live in Northampton and Lehigh counties. LifeStar would have specially trained and dedicated crews for Gracedale residents so that in a short amount of time Gracedale residents would be familiar with LifeStar. LifeStar provides medical, dental and vision insurance to all employees who choose to participate and a competitive pay scale. With 25 years of Lehigh Valley service, LifeStar provides more than 450 patient transports daily.
Freeman told council members that LifeStar was recommended because it would improve Gracedale's profitability and its operations. "We can only do this by working for thousands of dollars in savings as we review each contract," added Freeman.
Daniel Chiavaroli, president of Nazareth Ambulance Corps board of directors and NAC's executive director, said any savings the ambulance service could pass on to Gracedale after the first year of the service contract would be done. With Gracedale expanding its services and increasing the number of residents, Freeman said there were some unknown costs for the transport service with the new contract. Currently, NAC provides about 12 non-emergency transports a day. In 2011, there were a total of 1,131 emergency runs, with the majority of transported residents requiring hospital admission. NAC responds to all 911 Gracedale calls. Chiavaroli said the NAC's bid was based on its previous six years of providing these services to Gracedale.
Council's next regular meeting is at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 18 at Northampton County Courthouse's third floor, 669 Washington St., Easton.