And in the case of a not-for-profit ambulance service, there simply is no rebuilding it after a demo crew has done its work. But don’t tell this to Public Safety deconstructionist Ron Kim, who seems hell-bent on tearing down the frame work that has allowed the Saratoga Emergency Medical Service to flourish in the Spa City.
Kim has waged an aggressive campaign to ditch the city’s main ambulatory service in favor of hiring one of two for-profit companies that answered the bizarre request for proposal he issued last month. There is no apparent rhyme or reason for the sudden decision, other than to generate a bit more revenue for the city.
“SEMS is going to come in and say that people will die in the streets if we don’t do this. I haven’t made up my mind, but the reality is that Empire and Mohawk do this in several cities, and there aren’t people dying in the streets in those cities,” Kim told the Saratogian Tuesday.
Naturally, there have been a number of emergency-related personnel who have argued against privatizing the city’s ambulance service. The comments have varied in their content and validity, but they all seem focused at the same point: Snuffing SEMS out of business would create a looming fiscal disaster for the city.
Here’s the math. The city may be able to bilk $100,000 in rent from one of the private companies that would use space at the Westside fire station. This service would then provide residents with what is called ‘basic life support’ care aboard their rigs. City firefighters responding to emergencies would supply paramedics, who would ride aboard the private ambulances in cases that required ‘advanced life support’ services. Under these circumstances, the city would be reimbursed for the care.
It all sounds pretty good up until the for-profit service’s bean counters discover how much more lucrative their business would be if they simply stationed an ambulance crew in Saratoga County instead of paying the city’s ludicrously expensive rent on what amounts to a garage bay. Then if they’re wise, they’ll consider staffing their own paramedics aboard the rig, meaning the city could quite easily find itself with no revenue from the company at all or possibly even worse.
Once SEMS is omitted from the city’s ambulance contract, the company will quickly head toward insolvency. In fact, giving the city contract to anyone other than SEMS would ring the death knell for the four-decade old ambulance company. With the not-for-profit ambulance company liquidated, the city will have to choose between fulfilling any demands the new service may have; or establish their own city-funded service.
Some say this is what Kim wants. The destruction of SEMS would allow him to slowly build a city-owned ambulance fleet. He may even be brazen enough to purchase some of the spoils that will hit the market once he chokes the company out of existence. Some are alleging this is his diabolic plan: Expand the control of the Public Safety Department over to one part of the emergency system it doesn’t control.
But there’s a more logical reason for Kim’s sudden affinity for all things ambulance. Both Empire and Mohawk aren’t shy about dipping into their coffers when campaign season comes around. And while Kim says he hasn’t made up his mind, it’s clear he’s not pulling for SEMS, which most assuredly won’t be bankrolling anyone’s campaign this or any other year.
Mohawk, on the other hand, has a distinct record of getting into the political fray. More specifically, they have a number of curious links with the Albany County Democrats. One of their head spokesmen served under Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari, while another was a campaign spokesman for county Legislator Phil Steck’s unsuccessful run at Congress. Kim, who will surely face a tough election this fall, could probably use all the cash he can muster.
As usual, the victim of this mindless dickering will ultimately be the city’s residents Kim swore to serve. SEMS is an asset to Saratoga Springs and a model other municipalities have viewed as a very well functioning model for an ambulance service that doesn’t require taxpayer funding. But also, SEMS is Saratoga’s ambulance. It’s staffed by professionals who were raised in the community and know the difference between making a buck and providing emergency care for someone who could very well be their neighbor. Let’s hope this is a message Kim gets through his unconscionably thick skull this evening when the three ambulatory suitors give their presentations.