Steamship Authority members raised the discounted fares it now charges to transport ambulances between the islands and the mainland, at their monthly business meeting, held in Oak Bluffs on Tuesday, August 17.
The vote followed a management recommendation endorsed by the port council that the boatline ambulance rate be the same as for a commercial vehicle of the same length, a change that will effectively double current ambulance rates after November 1. The one difference is that the driver and any passengers will travel free.
Under 20-feet in length the round trip ambulance rate would be $105 in the off-season and $155 the rest of the year. Over 20-feet the rates would be $165 and $200 respectively.
The management report noted that the volume of ambulance travel has increased on both the Vineyard and Nantucket routes. During the 12-month period that ended on June 30, the SSA transported 1,358 ambulances on the Vineyard route and 57 on the Nantucket route.
Marc Hanover, Vineyard SSA member, told The Times that the context for the fare increases is the preferential treatment accorded ambulances. He said that when an ambulance arrives it is put on the next departing ferry. When an ordinary vehicle, or vehicles in the case of a large ambulance, holding a reservation is bumped, the SSA waives the one-way portion of their fare.
As an example of the increased travel, Mr. Hanover said in July 2008 there were 53 trips; 135 in July 09; and 153 in July this year.
“While the ambulance service bills the insurance company, the SSA must absorb the revenue lost from the bumped passenger, and that affects the ratepayers,” he said.
Tim Walsh, hospital chief executive officer, said the hospital has always picked up the cost of transporting ambulances on the ferry. “We looked at it as a community benefit, but the cost is approaching $50,000 per year, and that can now be expeced to double,” he said. “We will speaking to the ambulance service about how this expense can be recouped through insurance coverage.”
In other business, the members awarded a contract for the supply and installation of two security roll shutters that will allow the Oak Bluffs terminal deck and passenger walkway to be closed off when the facility is not in service.