Troy to run ambulance service following lawsuit

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Having a medical answering service would have helped to avoid this problem.


TROY — Selectmen have suspended the town’s contract with Troy Ambulance Inc. after the N.H. Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against the not-for-profit service over what the state agency says were filing lapses.

The board has also begun the transition of having the town’s fire department run the community’s ambulance service for the time being, as Troy Ambulance was the sole provider for residents. Other ambulance services in the region provide backup.

The Attorney General’s Office contends Troy Ambulance was in violation of state law because it didn’t keep up its annual reports with the state agency’s Charitable Trusts Unit.

The selectmen’s May 2 decision to suspend the contract came less than three weeks after the Attorney General’s Office filed its lawsuit in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord.

It also came after Troy Ambulance didn’t renew its charter with the N.H. Secretary of State’s Office, which it’s required by law to do every five years. The result has been the state agency considering the organization “administratively dissolved.”

Troy selectmen filed a motion in Cheshire County Superior Court in Keene Tuesday asking to take control of the ambulance service’s assets.

The ambulance service’s agreement with the town states the organization can’t dissolve or “fail to qualify as a voluntary not for profit corporation or entity,” according to the complaint and request for ex-parte relief that selectmen filed.

Troy Ambulance President Joseph R. Callahan said Tuesday he wouldn’t comment on any court action. The only written correspondence he had received from selectmen was a letter saying they suspended the contract, he said.

“We have not received anything in writing since they suspended our services, and as far as where we are with them, we have no idea,” he said.

The ambulance service still exists, but it’s not responding to calls, he said.

Selectmen seemed “a little more concerned about the money and assets than fixing the situation and moving forward and doing what is in the best interest of the town and its people to provide them with emergency services,” Callahan said.

The Troy Fire Department taking on responsibility of the ambulance service was the quickest way to restore it, Selectmen Chairman William T. “Tom” Matson said Tuesday. Since some members of the Troy Fire Department are also trained to provide emergency medical care, this made sense, he said.

It would have taken too long to re-form Troy Ambulance as a new nonprofit organization, he said.

During the lapse in coverage, the Troy Fire Department and Fitzwilliam Ambulance have been handling medical calls, he said.

Fitzwilliam Ambulance relies on on-call, paid personnel, and is overseen by the town’s fire department.

Other towns in Cheshire County, including Alstead, Marlow, Walpole and Winchester, have small ambulance departments that rely on on-call or volunteer staff.

The only ambulance services that have full-time employees are the Keene-based DiLuzio Ambulance Service and the city of Keene.

Troy Ambulance is the second ambulance service in recent years to fizzle in the region. The first was Marl-Harris Ambulance, covering Marlborough and Harrisville, which didn’t have enough staff to continue operating.

Dr. James “Jim” C. Suozzi, EMS medical director at Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene, said emergency medical response services in the region are already strained as towns and ambulance services are struggling to find volunteers and cover calls.

“It’s a huge strain on the system to have another service not operating,” he said. “It puts a lot of strain on already strapped volunteers and services.”

The Attorney General’s complaint has selectmen concerned about the integrity and financial situation of Troy Ambulance, and whether its liquid assets “may be diverted for purposes not authorized in the incorporation and creation of Troy Ambulance Inc.,” the town’s attorney, Silas B. Little 3rd of Peterborough, wrote in the Keene court filing.

He asked the court on behalf of selectmen to verify that the town can take possession of the ambulance and other physical assets of the organization based on the terms of Troy Ambulance’s charter. He also requested the court order the organization to provide financial statements it failed to give to the town, per its agreement, and the Charitable Trusts Unit, and bar Troy Ambulance funds from being used without a further court order.

Judge John C. Kissinger Jr. granted selectmen’s request soon after it was filed.

In addition, Kissinger scheduled a hearing on the town’s request for May 27.

“It has nothing to do with the membership. They’re all wonderful volunteers who worked to keep the ambulance going,” Matson said Tuesday. “Unfortunately, the administrative overhead became too much.”

Troy Fire Chief Mark D. Huntoon will be in charge of the operation, and town officials are working with Troy Ambulance members interested in continuing to respond to medical calls through the fire department, Matson said.

The Attorney General’s April 13 complaint asks a Merrimack County Superior Court judge to find that Troy Ambulance violated state law, and order it to pay a $10,000 fine. The state agency also requests in the court order that Troy Ambulance’s directors file overdue annual reports dating back to 2012, and file future annual reports in a timely manner.

Besides breaking the law, Troy Ambulance is giving the state cause to revoke its charitable trust registration and dissolve it, Charitable Trusts Director Thomas J. Donovan wrote in the complaint.

He wrote that his office made several requests to Troy Ambulance to file its reports starting in December 2008, when the organization missed the filing deadlines for its annual reports for fiscal years 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Those reports, and the 2009 reports, were received by the Charitable Trusts Unit in July 2010, according to the complaint.

The state agency received Troy Ambulance’s fiscal year 2010 report a year later, Donovan wrote.

In October 2013, the state agency started asking for Troy Ambulance to file its 2011 and 2012 annual reports, according to the complaint. The requests continued, and eventually included the fiscal year 2013 annual report. Troy Ambulance filed the 2011 report in December 2015, but by then the Charitable Trusts Unit had opened an investigation. The investigation included the state agency requesting copies of the organization’s bank records, which it is in the process of reviewing, according to the complaint.

In addition, Donovan wrote that the Internal Revenue Service has revoked Troy Ambulance’s nonprofit tax-exempt status because it didn’t file certain documents.

Matson said he expects having the fire department take on the ambulance service will have an effect on the town’s budget, but it’s hard to judge at this time.

According to the Troy Ambulance’s Articles of Agreement, its funding sources include billing for services and voluntary contributions. The town also contributed $3,841 last year to pay for insurance covering the emergency medical personnel and ambulance, worker’s compensation, fuel, telephone and recharging the fire extinguishers, according to the 2015 town report.

Despite the town taking on the operations of the ambulance service, there is always an option for a group of residents wanting to form a new nonprofit to run the ambulance to do so, Matson said.