SSA considers ways to thwart misuse of med emergency privilege

File photo by Susan Safford

The Steamship Authority, at a meeting Tuesday on Martha’s Vineyard, heard from Island member Marc Hanover a description of what he said was increasing abuse of the emergency medical transportation policy that allows travelers with a doctor’s note to go ahead of reserved ticket holders and standbys.

In other matters, the members approved winter and spring schedules, discussed general manager Wayne Lamson’s goals for the coming year, and received management updates on efforts to construct a new website.

The most extensive discussion followed a presentation by Fred LaPiana, Tisbury department of public works director, on the efforts of the Tisbury-Oak Bluffs trash district to find cost savings by barging solid waste directly to New Bedford (see related story).

Falmouth member Robert Marshall embraced the concept as a way to reduce truck traffic through his town. “We want relief where it makes sense for all of us,” he said.

Mr. Marshall said that he was encouraged by what he heard. “We’ve got a home run here,” he said.

The boatline’s new website remains in the offing. Mr. Lamson reported that programming is to be completed by the end of August. The final cost is projected at roughly $300,000.

The website is to be ready for testing in September, in anticipation of a launch after the Columbus Day weekend. Mr. Marshall emphasized caution over deadlines. He said the new site needed to be “slam dunk 100 percent tight” before it was unveiled to the public.

The approved 2013 winter and spring schedules provide few surprises. The winter schedule will start three days earlier (January 1) and end eight days earlier (April 9) than in 2012. As a result, the spring schedule will start eight days earlier (April 10) and end five days earlier, on May 15. The SSA will open the Oak Bluffs terminal on May 16, 2013, at the start of the summer schedule.

During the summer season, vehicle space and reservations are at a premium. Mr. Hanover said he had heard complaints from agents in Woods Hole who said that travelers carrying notes signed by doctors are abusing the medical emergency policy.

“It is really getting abused, and I’m not talking about people getting released from major surgery,” Mr. Hanover said. Management agreed to consider ways to cut down on the abuse.

Also this week, Mr. Lamson confirmed a reorganization in Island terminal management. “In the past, Bridget [Tobin] has elected to spend most of her time working at the Oak Bluffs terminal during the summer season,” Mr. Lamson told The Times. “The Vineyard Haven terminal was left for others to manage and supervise in the summer when Bridget was busy overseeing terminal operations at Oak Bluffs.

“Bridget will continue as terminal manager of the Oak Bluffs terminal and Richard Clark, who previously had the title of associate terminal agent, will now serve as the Vineyard Haven terminal manager. Richard’s new duties will include the handling of all security, safety, administrative and personnel matters at the Vineyard Haven terminal on a year-round basis. This realignment will allow Bridget to spend more time on the things she has been so good at during her entire career here at the Authority, which is providing such great customer service to both residents and visitors alike.”