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Ambulance company's response is disputed Workers say call to aid officers was refused; Twin City says it wasn't needed

Employees of Twin City Ambulance of the City of Tonawanda said management refused to respond to a mutual aid request when two Buffalo police officers were shot Tuesday night.

But officials of both Twin City Ambulance and Rural/Metro Medical Services -- which serves the City of Buffalo -- said the assistance was not needed.

However, members of the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics Local 394 charge that Twin City Ambulance could have assisted but chose not to. They said the management's policy is not to accept mutual aid calls to "certain areas where insurance coverage may be questionable."

"When two officers are shot it's despicable that they can't spare one ambulance when there are about nine ambulances available," said Jeff Abbott, a Twin City Ambulance paramedic and president of Local 394. He acknowledged, however, that it was unclear whether the mutual aid call was merely to provide stand-by assistance.

Tom Maxian, CEO and general counsel of Twin City Ambulance, said, "We do provide mutual aid to surrounding communities, and we have in fact provided aid on several occasions." But he added that it was not necessary Tuesday because Rural/Metro had four ambulances on the scene of the shooting shortly after 9 p.m.

Jay Smith, public affairs and marketing manager for Rural/Metro, said mutual aid was requested initially by Buffalo because of the nature of the emergency.

However, "Twin City wasn't needed," he said. "We had ambulances available."

Chris Cloen, a national representative for the union, believes the mutual aid call was requested for Twin City Ambulance to provide stand-by assistance in the city while Rural/Metro responded to the shooting of the officers.

"It seems to be their policy to continuously say 'no,' and we as a union have a problem with that," said Cloen, who also works as a Twin City paramedic.

But Smith denied Twin City was needed even for stand-by assistance.

"That was not the case," he said. "We cover Erie and Niagara counties, and we have the ability to shift resources if needed."

News Staff Reporter Anthony Cardinale contributed to this report.

e-mail: esapong@buffnews.com

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