By Anya Tikka
HURLEYVILLE The Town of Liberty Volunteer Ambulance Corp (TOLVAC) has merged with Mobilemedic, but this will result in better, stronger service for Liberty residents at no cost to taxpayers, said Mobilemedic President and CEO Albee E. Bockman on Wednesday at his Hurleyville business office.
“We’ve served the whole of Sullivan County as well as the Town of Liberty for 20 years, and 911 calls have been routed directly to us if the caller gives sufficient information on the phone, or once the local EMS got on the scene, we were called if more advanced care was necessary,” he continued.
Bockman went on to explain that his service offers Advanced Life Support Service medical care by approximately 30 highly trained paramedics whose college level training requires 2,500 hours versus 150 for regular EMS personnel.
“If the patient was having a heart attack, has difficulty in breathing, we were called,” he said.
TOLVAC was classified as BLS, Basic Life Support System. It was the second busiest EMS in the county, at about 2,200-500 calls handled. Mobilemedic deals with about 12,000 calls annually.
Both services have been run on the same third-party billing basis from insurance companies, plus donations for TOLVAC, according to Bockman, but because the service went from TOLVAC’s not-for-profit status to Mobilemedic’s for-profit status, New York Attorney General’s Office had to be involved to structure the transition, explained Bockman.
But in fact, TOLVAC has been neither voluntary for about 10 years now, nor is it associated with the Town of Liberty, as the name would suggest, said Bockman.
“Ninety percent of their membership was paid by the organization,” he continued. “They had to start hiring in order to continue operating.”
Once TOLVAC started paying, it had a large payroll and payroll taxes for approximately 20 people. In addition, there has been a reduction in Medicare reimbursement of 2 percent this year, and there has not been an increase in Medicaid reimbursement in seven years, making it hard for TOLVAC to meet its financial obligations.
The merger took several months of negotiations, and Bockman was eager to point out that he’s keeping on about half of Tolvac’s personnel, including administrator Ian Cooperstein, who’s going to have a management position within the company.
The Attorney General’s Office stipulated personnel had to be kept on if they met the stipulated policies and procedures of Mobilemedic.
“Change is always difficult,” said Bockman, in an acknowledgement of the fact there has been some resistance to the merger.
Cooperstein did not return calls for comments, and was not present at the interview despite having been called.
Bockman’s company employs 80 people and has 13 ambulances, based in different parts of the county ready to be shuffled if need arises. “We’ll keep three to five ambulances in Liberty,” said Bockman.
Bockman attributes the success of his company to sound business management and good ethics.
“It’s discipline,” he smiled.