Exploring options

FI-EditorialNo one wants to sound like a broken record, but when it comes to the status of Greenwich Emergency Medical Services (GEMS) it must be repeated that it would be a mistake to demand short-sighted cuts.

By now GEMS’ record of achievement in terms of its response times and its cardiac save rate (far and beyond the national average) are well known. And this is not just the kind of good work that earns you a pat on the back and a “job well done.” In emergency situations where every second counts this is the kind of performance that saves lives.

So why are we discussing this again so soon after making it clear that GEMS’ allocation from the town should not be cut? The budget might have gotten through without even the attempt of making a cut, but now it is time for the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) to consider GEMS’ contract with the town.

There’s nothing outrageous in the contract. So why the fuss? Because a portion of the body seems determined to explore if there is a better deal. There are some RTM members reluctant to commit to a new five-year contract with GEMS and want to explore options, perhaps even involving privatization of the town’s ambulance corps.

A proposed amendment was made Tuesday night before the RTM’s Town Services Committee calling for not a five-year contract but instead a one-year renewal that would allow for the formation of a group to evaluate all options. This idea would cause needless uncertainty within GEMS, impacting fund raising and staff recruitment and retention, all of which are absolutely vital to GEMS’ continued high level of service.

This amendment never even got a second and there is strong RTM support for GEMS. So it’s possible this will go away. But it could be brought up again at Monday’s RTM meeting and that’s why it’s critical to once again loudly support GEMS.

It’s a bad idea to even consider bringing in a private company when GEMS has provided such excellent service as a non-profit organization for close to 30 years. But the RTM is acting within its rights to be asking questions. There’s no malice in the inquiries and no one is doubting GEMS’ record of achievement. Scrutiny is not a bad thing. However, we are at a point where the questions have been asked and answered.

The RTM has done its due diligence and received both information and informed perspective, not just from GEMS officials and board members but also from town leaders, the head of the Board of Health and town Health Department, and even from RTM members. They all say the same thing. GEMS is providing the kind of service for the town you would not get anywhere else.

This is an organization tied to the fabric of the Greenwich community. Health Director Caroline Baisley made a great point when she noted that GEMS’ trained personnel were on hand to volunteer in town emergency shelters when needed most at no additional cost to the town. Does the RTM think it will get the same level of commitment from a private company? All it will end up getting is a bill.

GEMS has done so well for so long that it’s easy to take it for granted. But it must be stressed that this is the kind of service you never think you’re going to need until your life depends on it. To nickel and dime GEMS would be a serious mistake.

It is our hope that exploring alternatives is now a dead issue. The contract should be approved quickly and easily on Monday night.

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