Lehigh Valley

Northampton County Council keeps Gracedale ambulance service provider

EASTON, Pa. - Northampton County Council on Thursday night decided that a $31,000 per year savings could not justify ousting the Nazareth Ambulance Corp as the non-emergency medical transport services provider for Gracedale Nursing Home residents.

In a 7-2 vote, Council decided to reject a proposal to switch the transportation services to Lifestar Response and instead stay with the same provider that has served the nursing home for many years.

Council's Thursday night agenda originally included a resolution to approve a contract with Lifestar for $315,600 for the first year, with the potential for three years at $946,800. A recommendation to select Lifestar was made by County Executive John Stoffa.

But for Council members like Margaret "Peg" Ferraro, the "human element" outweighed the annual financial savings of $31,000. Ferraro noted the nursing home staff, its residents and their families are used to dealing with Nazareth Ambulance Corp and that she was uncomfortable with the thought of changing providers.

Councilman Scott Parsons, who voted against the Nazareth Ambulance Corp contract, said the issue "comes down to dollars and cents."

While the county received requests for proposals from multiple providers, this type of service did not require Council to award the contract to lowest responsible bidder.

Gracedale officials noted the ambulance services contract is for only non-emergency transports. When a medical emergency occurs at the nursing home, staff are required to immediately call 911.

Legal counsel for Lifestar argued that Nazareth Ambulance Corp does not qualify for the contract because it does not hold special state licensing for para-transit transportation services. But legal counsel for Nazareth Ambulance Corp said this specific license was not required for the type of services it provides to Gracedale.

County Councilman Thomas Dietrich said Lifestar's argument was moot because the court system back in 2006 already determined Nazareth Ambulance did not need this special license to provide these services to Gracedale residents.

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