February 13, 2013LITTLETON — Change is in the air in town. CALEX has been preparing to provide ambulance service in Littleton since the selectmen unanimously voted last month to contract with the Vermont company.
CALEX was approached about possible Littleton service based on town budget concerns. Ross Ambulance, which has served Littleton for 45 years, asked for a funding increase of nearly 60 percent late last year.
Although new to Littleton, the company has provided ambulance service for nearly three decades. Currently, CALEX serves over 250 square miles in northeastern Vermont.
Last week, Jon Bouffard, Chief Operations Officer, discussed CALEX and its new Littleton service. He said the company was founded in 1984, after Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury divested itself of ambulance service.
"We're very excited to become part of the Littleton community," Bouffard noted. One way to respect the town's voice, Bouffard said, is through the CALEX board of directors. The company has a resident from each town it serves on the board. A Littleton member will be added, Bouffard promised.
Bouffard added that CALEX appreciates the partnerships between fire departments, police officers, and paramedics. The company looks forward to working with other first responders and residents so that Littleton maintains a "very strong public safety response," Bouffard said.
CALEX will operate out of the Littleton fire station on a 24/7 basis starting March 1. A two-person paramedic crew will staff the primary ambulance serving the town.
Ross ambulances have been based at the station, as well.
Bouffard added, "We will also have a second truck in Littleton." The company will ensure that the back-up ambulance will be ready as close to March 1 as possible.
The main CALEX ambulance will not be involved in transfers. CALEX made sure another unit could provide any needed transfers, Bouffard said, because "we're contracted to have that paramedic truck in town all the time."
A rigorous town review led to the conclusion to switch providers. "It was a very thorough process," Bouffard said. "I was very impressed by it."
Littleton used review panels to interview both Ross and CALEX. Seven reference checks for each company were also done. Bouffard said that individuals on the panels were very devoted to making sure the town made a fully vetted and fair decision.
As the Selectmen voted to make the change, they promised that cost was not the sole factor. "They did look fairly deeply into everything," Bouffard said. This included an examination of staff qualifications. Of the town's review panel, Bouffard concluded, "They had their ducks in a row."
CALEX has a history of working with communities on training, Bouffard said. This includes CPR education and related matters. Offering these training opportunities is part of the company's Littleton planning, Bouffard said.
CALEX is a private, non-profit, 501(c)(3) entity. It provides primary service in a 14-town area in rural Vermont. About 13,000 people live in the CALEX response territory. The Littleton service will be the first time that CALEX has contracted with a New Hampshire town, Bouffard said.
The company has won several awards, including Vermont's 2006 Governor's Award for workplace safety.