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Ambulance fees targeted for hike

LYNDHURST –

It looks like out-of-towners, with certain exceptions, will be paying more for a ride to a hospital in a Lyndhurst ambulance.

A township ordinance introduced Feb. 11 and slated for public hearing on March 11, calls for an $800 transport fee plus $15 per mile to be charged to non-residents conveyed to a hospital by the Lyndhurst Police Emergency Squad (LPES).

“Any portion of the transport fee herein established (or the entire fee) may be waived for residents of Lyndhurst,” the ordinance states.

The current charges are $600 for a transport fee plus $12.50 per mile.

Since the ambulance service began, those fees have been waived for township residents, although, based on a search of municipal records by the Township Clerk’s office, it appears that Lyndhurst has never put into writing the rules governing fees assessed by the LPES.

Now the plan is to “codify” that protocol, officials said.

Asked why the township was planning to raise the fees, Mayor/Public Safety Commissioner Robert Giangeruso referred a reporter to the township’s Emergency Management Services (EMS).

Salvatore De Carlo, deputy director of Lyndhurst EMS, said the proposed rate hike is not being sought by the LPES. “The recommendation to raise the fees came from the township, presumably to help with the [municipal] budget,” he said.

“The billing is revenue generating,” De Carlo said. “The money collected goes to the township general fund. It doesn’t come to the squad.”

And, based on a review of records for last year, it doesn’t appear that the township lost money by providing the service, according to De Carlo.

For 2013, De Carlo said, Lyndhurst paid about $250,000 for maintenance costs associated with running the ambulance and for payments to 13 emergency medical technicians who operate on a rotating basis and one supervisor and collected $326,388 in revenues.

“So it looks like the township makes a little money off us,” he said.

How that works, De Carlo said, is that, “If a township resident uses the [ambulance] service, we take what the person’s insurance company pays and, if there is a balance owed, the resident is not responsible for that balance. If a nonresident uses the service, that person is responsible for the balance.”

However, if somebody from Rutherford or another community that partners with Lyndhurst in a mutual aid pact gets hurt in Lyndhurst, there is no charge to transport that person, De Carlo said.

Or, if a person from a mutual aid partner community gets hurt in one of those communities and Lyndhurst’s ambulance responds, that person “would be treated the same as a Lyndhurst resident,” De Carlo said.

An exception to the rule: a non-resident visiting Medieval Times who has an allergic reaction to the animals and who is taken by Lyndhurst ambulance to the hospital is responsible for the transport fees, said De Carlo.

A draft of the proposed ordinance is “still in flux,” he added.

– Ron Leir

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