Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gardner, MA 911 Ambulance Contract Is An Ongoing Debate

     Ever since the news of the Gardner ambulance contract surfaced in the beginning of the year, there has been a lot of opinionated responses, from many regarding it. Woods Ambulance, whom held the contract for 60 years, was informed that Medstar Ambulance was likely to obtain it, even before proposals were submitted. This news upset many, cries to save Wood's Ambulance were heard far and wide. Employees held out on hope, that maybe they had a chance to continue to provide quality care, for the community they had been proudly serving for years.

    When it came time for the decision to be made, Medstar Ambulance was awarded the contract. This was not a surprise, because even before the contract was awarded by Mayor Hawke, Medstar Ambulance's administration was scheduling, and hiring new employees to cover the shifts in Gardner. How is it that, even before a decision was clearly made, Medstar was able confidently hire, and schedule employees, unless they knew well in advance that they would secure the contract? This is merely speculation, but it seems like a deal was made prior to putting the contract up for bid.

    Recently an article was posted in the Worcester Telegram regarding the Gardner City council being at odds over the contract. There was a couple of statements that really stood out to me, upon reading it. Now, to completely understand my point of view, one must know that the 3 top runners for the contract were Action Ambulance, Woods Ambulance, and Medstar Ambulance. Much light has been shed on Wood's and Medstar, nothing has been mentioned about Action. In this article published by the Worcester Telegram, Mayor Hawke states his reasoning for awarding Medstar the 911, ambulance contract. The quote itself reads;

     "What really impressed us was the amount of technology they have," Mr. Hawke said. "They've really invested in health care technology."

     Mr. Hawke said Wood's Ambulance Service has not kept pace.

     The mayor said the MedStar ambulance will operate out of the city's Central Fire Station. He said the company indicated it will help the Fire Department develop its own basic life support capabilities."

    Hawke clearly states that his decision was made with investment in health care technology in mind. But this raises a bigger question, if technology is what Mayor Hawke was seeking, why wasn't Action Ambulance the best choice? Action Ambulance is a large company, who has invested in large, high quality training labs, a temperature controlled major incident response vehicle, Multiple ATVs, bicycles, and much more. Medstar, whom was Mayor Hawke's choice, does not even come close to such technology. Besides the bells and whistles that Action offers, I have dug deeper. I have interviewed employees from all three of the mentioned companies. Simply for comparison purposes, I asked what kind of equipment they carried on their ambulances. The results were not a surprise. In the last couple of years, MA-DPH, Office Of Emergency Medical Services mandated that all licensed ambulance services needed to upgrade, and change out old, out of date equipment. My interviews uncovered that Action, Wood's, who was accused of "not keeping pace with developing technology,"  as well as Medstar carried much of the same equipment. Action and Wood's, as far as cardiac monitors are concerned, have the same make and model which are lifepack 12's and 15's. Medstar, carries Zoll monitors. In comparison to the effectiveness of these cardiac monitors, they all have the same function, user friendliness, and provide the same level of diagnostic capabilities. Both models are DPH approved for use, and are up to date on regulations.

    Out of the three companies, Wood's Ambulance is the only company that has made an investment in the high quality CPR device, the Lucas 2. This device provides quality CPR, with the ability to provide less pauses to life saving chest compressions. IV equipment, stretchers, stair chairs, airway devices, extrication equipment, all measured equal in effectiveness, and again were all up to DPH regulation.

    The ambulances themselves, now this is where it becomes debatable. Action Ambulance has more, newer model ambulances. Medstar houses many, old vehicles purchased, re-built, and re-painted. Wood's offered a mix of older vehicles, with brand new vehicles on order, and currently arriving. As far as the contract was concerned, Action and Wood's offered more as far as ambulances themselves. Action and Wood's proposed multiple "Box ambulances," where as Medstar has offered up 3 Vans, which is likely to drop down to only 2 by the end of the summer. Now, not being an Emergency Medical Technician, one may not know the real difference between the two. The major differences are, usable space, and quality of the ride itself. A Box ambulance provides space for multiple providers, about 3-4 comfortably, to work efficiently when the need arises. Usually in a major life and death situation. A van ambulance can fit about 2 providers comfortably, along with the patient, but allows next to no access to the patient's right side. OEMS does not recommend the use of a van ambulance in the 911, emergency setting, because it does not comfortably house the needed Advanced Life Support equipment. Often the equipment will obstruct the movement of providers. Vans are usually recommended for Baslic Life Support, non-emergent transports.

    In the end, Action was the clear top runner, the only reason they were not considered for the contract, was because they did not own an ambulance base in Gardner. But, here is the thing, neither did Medstar. The only company that housed ambulances in the city at the moment of decision making, was Wood's Ambulance. So, why was Action out of the running? In the end, Action was turned away because of their "lack of ownership of property." Medstar who lacked property ownership themselves, was handed the contract, and offered housing in the Gardner Fire Department. Why wasn't this option extended to Action Ambulance as well? Why was this housing decision kept quiet until the contract was awarded? Why are the Gardner tax payers, paying for the Fire Department to build Medstar EMS quarters in the Fire Department? Why wasn't the construction in the Fire Depatrment voted on? Why was Medstar not held to the same standard as Action, and Wood's? There is far too much suspicious activity involved. Mayor Hawke claims that Medstar was making "Investments in improvement," then later made a statement regarding Medstar assisting Gardner Fire in establishing their own Basic Life Support ambulance. What they fail to mention is, Wood's made offers to assist and support Gardner Fire as well.
Costs Submitted- Blank spaces show category's rarely billed by Wood's


    Mayor Hawke ran a campaign based on "Supporting Local Business." In the end, he outsourced the contract, and a company, that was established in Gardner over 60 years ago was pushed out. His ideals of supporting local business was a joke. He blatantly had a different agenda in mind, when it came to this contract. In the end, the company he chose will cost tax payers more in ambulance costs, and wasted tax dollars spent to build unnecessary additions onto the Gardner Fire Department, which was never even voted on. Gardner citizens and tax payers should be angry with the decision made, because the costs you are now forced to pay, and the wasted tax dollars directly effect you.  Mayor Hawke's decision should be
over ruled and voted on by the people of Gardner. Plain and simple.

-Published  by Allaboutems.com- 6/10/2014

***Note from the author***

I am merely a bystander, who is not currently employed by any of the Ambulance companies mentioned.


Funny how instead of answering the questions, he placed blame on Wood's Ambulance, who has had nothing to do with this article being written, and has chosen to ignore the purpose of this post, and place blame because I own a blog. Interesting.


  1. THIS IS MAYOR HAWK'S REPLY- Mark Hawke "Are you kidding me? This is almost as outlandish as the scores of lies being pushed by this FB page. Why doesn't someone that bashes me on this page as me questions directly? Why didn't the anonymous blogger ask me questions directly? What about the Committee formed to evaluate the proposals? What about the fact that this contract was simply handed to Woods for decades without any sort of process? What about the fact that after Woods contacted the Attorney General's office about fraud claims, they praised our process and stated they wished all communities did it as openly as we did. By the way, where were you all when Walmart came to town and killed small businesses. Where was everyone when Olympia Sports came to town and challenged John's Sport Shop? Maybe you should sit down and figure out what a small local business actually is before you throw stones. By the way, use your real names and ask the Gardner Fire Department what they think!"

    Well Mr. Mayor, you seemed to forget to ANSWER THE QUESTIONS. You have, however mastered the art of "beating around the bush."

  2. Medstar sucks, they are unqualified. Every time a medstar ambulance is called people's lives are put in jeopardy. People need to stand up and do something about this. I am also just an innocent bystander but I would not want my life or the lives of my loved ones in the hands of Medstar.

    People need to stand up and if nothing can be done the right way because of corrupt, underhanded, shady dealings. It may be time for some more extreme measures...if Medstar is going to continue with all of this, we may need to protect ourselves through use of force.

    Medstar has been known to send unqualified, untrained, sometimes convicted violent criminals to respond to emergency situations. And this is something I will not accept.

    1. Probably should qualify those statements a little. . I am not exactly a fan and question some business practices. But I can vouch for a large percentage of the staff and supervisor staff as I have worked with them... they are highly qualified and dedicated. If the element you describe was rampant I can't imagine the staff keep in it quiet.... that said I cannot state 100% that my opinion is accurate. But I would be surprised. ..Chris Belanger NRP. ; 23 years now

  3. As much as comments are greatly appreciated, I did not write this article to "bash" the inner workings of any of the three ambulance companies. As with anywhere, each place comes with it's good and bad points. Not every employee at Medstar is horrible, in fact there are a few I would most definitely trust with my life. The workplace doesn't always define the employee.

    That is all I will say regarding that.

  4. Dear Taxpayers of Gardner; Regardless of what your Mayor or City Committee did or how they reached the decision to change; your got screwed; YOU now have to pay "four times" for a ambulance transport. This is for the exact same service you have been receiving for the past 60 years from Woods Ambulance, but that's ok; your getting better technology now! Mr Mayor, please run for Governor, we need someone of your caliber in the State House!!!

    1. If only technology was actually a real factor in it. He states that Woods has old trucks. Medstar runs 11 trucks, over 10 years old. One of these trucks is a 1998 model.

      So much for that thought.

  5. If I were Wood's, I would protest. I'm a contracting officer for the Air Force and as an acquisition professional for the Government, we look out for the best interest of the tax payers. I'm not versed in Massachusetts regulations but I assume it's very similar or close to the Federal Acquisitions Regulation. The decision for "Best Value" of the Government while going above a lower bid would have to be justified. To see the quotes side by side is really the only way to tell not just by prices. There is more to the acquisition process then numbers. But once the contract is awarded, if it has not already, Freedom of Information Act could help you out. And if it has been without protest, well you can just look for fun because there is a window to protest.

    With Medstar getting inside knowledge of the requirement, they should be disqualified if anything that was talking about would have helped. I would have a hard time awarding to a company with that prior knowledge to get the upper hand.