Daniel Hunsberger, a Democrat serving on the Inland Wetlands Commission, criticized portions of the contract the Town Council recently approved making Valley Medical Services Inc. (VEMS) the 24/7 paramedic service provider for the Monroe Volunteer Emergency Medical Service. He made the comments during a public speaking portion of Monday night's Town Council meeting.
After acknowledging the town's need for its own paramedic service, Hunsberger said, "It was obvious not all of the Town Council had an opportunity to review the agreement prior to the meeting and voting. Several members had copies missing every other page, requiring First Selectman [Steve] Vavrek to reprint the contract/agreement in its entirety for those council members.
While the Town Council cannot be faulted for voting for paramedic level emergency medical services, it seems the contract/agreement was not carefully vetted and scrutinized as several issues that should have been dealt with in the agreement appear to have been overlooked."
Hunsberger said the agreement does not stipulate performance standards for response times. He also criticized the agreement for not including a stipulation requiring the paramedic to stay in Monroe, rather than "joy riding" or going out on mutual aid calls in other communities.
A separate agreement for mutual aid paramedics was not presented to the Town Council as part of the agreement presentation, Hunsberger said.
"Would that separate agreement not have a significant impact on the town's cost of providing paramedic level service to the taxpayers of Monroe?" he asked. "The agreement doesn't seem to prevent the absurd scenario of Monroe's paramedic being dispatched on mutual aid to another town and then another VEMS paramedic being dispatched on mutual aid to Monroe with the town being billed additionally for the mutual aid paramedic."
Hunsberger also said the agreement does not give the town the control and supervision it should have over the paramedic service.
He quoted this part of Section 4 of the contract, "VEMS undertakes performance of the services as an independent contractor under this Agreement and shall be wholly responsible for the methods of its performance under this Agreement. The TOWN shall have no right to supervise the method used, but the TOWN shall have the right to observe such performance."
"The language seems to eliminate any control or supervision of VEMS providing paramedic services to our community," Hunsberger said.
Hunsberger noted that council members asked about discipline at their Nov. 13 meeting and were told that it was addressed, but he said there was nothing in writing insuring that Monroe EMS officers can request removal of a paramedic for poor performance.
"The agreement for advanced paramedic level medical care in Monroe is long overdue," Hunsberger said. "However, critical issues seem to have been left out of the final version of the agreement. Town Council and Monroe's EMS officers should carefully review the mutual aid agreement before approval. I also urge Monroe's EMS officers to track response times and mutual aid responses to insure compliance with the spirit (if not the letter) of the new paramedic agreement."