Mansfield residents and EMS professionals speak out as township committee prepares new service contract at meeting

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A new contract for Mansfield Township’s designated EMS provider is planned to be finalized in August and sent out to bid.

But when township committee members drafted the new Request for Proposal (RFP) at a July meeting, residents and current EMS professionals in the township voiced their stance on the matter.

In what was described as a “packed house” by Mansfield Township Mayor Sean Gable at the township committee’s July 29 meeting, more than 50 combined residents and EMS professionals of Mansfield Township Ambulance Corps (MTAC), the township’s current EMS provider, attended the meeting in support of the EMS group as committee members prepared the RFP draft.

A RFP is defined as a document that solicits proposal, often made through a bidding process, by an agency or company interested in obtaining of a commodity, service or valuable asset, to potential suppliers to submit a business proposal.

Although Mansfield residents and members of MTAC spoke out at the meeting to raise concerns and questions about the RFP planned to go out to bid, which could potentially allow a new EMS provider to win the contract and replace MTAC, Gable said that the township committee is only following the legal bid process for the new contract.

“This is not something that the committee has decided to do – to go out for bids for EMS service. This is something that we are required to do,” Gable said. “We are not allowed to go into a contract for service with EMS being that they are a separate organization. Unfortunately, this is the process that we have to go through. It’s not because of the service that we receive from this organization.

“I have not received a complaint about [MTAC’s] service. I think they provide a great service to our community, but unfortunately, this is the process we have to go through,” Gable added.

Before the public comment period commenced on the RFP, committee members discussed multiple specifications to be included in the draft document, which pertained to items such as supervision, billing for insured and uninsured patients, potential EMS training for township employees, fire department and police and EMS community outreach programs.

When the subject of billing patients was discussed to extent, the committee explained that the current township EMS provider uses a soft billing process for patients. Soft billing is defined as the reaming expenses not covered by a patient’s insurance provider to be collected by the EMS provider, but any portion that cannot be paid by the patient will not be collected.

Once the committee finalized the specifications to be included in the RFP and opened the meeting for public comment, MTAC’s EMS Chief George Senf was first to the microphone to voice his support for his team.

“Without a shadow of doubt, I know we are giving the best service to this town,” Senf said.

Senf explained that MTAC, who also serves Chesterfield Township and Wrightstown Borough, is a nonprofit organization. Given the committee’s lengthy discussion about the billing practice for township, the EMS chief provided an explanation of MTAC’s billing procedure, which he felt further serves the community.

Senf said that a patient can be potentially influenced by surmounting medical service costs and decide to not opt for care when needed.

“Currently, we bill $650 for every transport, plus $14 per mile. Compared to other squads, that’s a lower amount,” Senf said. “There is a lot of literature out there that shows that people will not call the ambulance because they are afraid they can’t pay the bill so, they will just lie on the floor for 24 hours and not get help because they are afraid they don’t have the money.

“We feel it’s a service we should provide. We should not be billing someone because they can’t get off the floor, but we can be there in 5-10 minutes, pick them up and help them,” Senf added.

The EMS chief noted that MTAC has a legal requirement to bill 100% of patients, but said he believes the use of a soft billing process encourages patients to reach out in a time of need no matter the expense.

“This is a service; it’s not a business,” Senf said. “We are here to help people. We are not here to get rich off of other people. If people call us and say, ‘We don’t have the money to pay,’ we will write that bill off, which is what we take into account with the contract.

“[Transportation service] doesn’t cost us anything. Yeah, there is a fuel cost to get there, but it’s minimal when we compare it to what we are doing for that person,” Senf said.

Shortly after Senf’s comments, multiple residents came up to the microphone to share  positive experiences they have had with MTAC’s services as well as words of support for the committee to consider when awarding the new EMS contract.

Once the document is confirmed among the committee members, township professionals said it is sent to the township solicitor for additional review. The document will come back to the committee for review at its August meeting and officially go out for bid, according to the committee.

Township professionals also said that when this contract goes out to bid, the contract is not simply awarded to the lowest bidder. Professionals said that multiple factors are taken into account other than price, which includes items such as qualifications, experience and the provider’s history.

“When we receive the bids, then we will know what kind of comparison we have for service – who’s bidding on this,” Gable said. “Once we receive those bids, then we will know what we are comparing our current service to.”

The township committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 21 at 7 p.m. Committee meetings are held in the Town Hall Meeting Room, 3135 Route 206 South, Suite 2, Columbus.