Council: NY fire department can apply for ALS permit

The controversy over Lockport's ambulance service took another turn as the council gave the fire department a green light for ALS service

By Thomas J. Prohaska
The Buffalo News

LOCKPORT, N.Y. — The Lockport Fire Department will be able to restore paramedic services if the Common Council gets its way.

The Council voted Wednesday to have Fire Chief Patrick K. Brady apply to the state Health Department for restoration of the department's permit for advanced life support services. Since the city did away with Fire Department ambulance services in September 2014, such services have been barred.

The department has been approved for basic life support services, but those don't allow sophisticated life-saving measures or the use of medication. Brady said the department has 23 paramedics and still has 95 percent of the equipment it would need for advanced life support, although it would have to buy a supply of medicines. However, the application to Albany, which still needs approval from the Fire Board and the signature of Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey, will not move quickly, the chief predicted.

He said there's "a very long process involved in proving your need."

The Council voted 5-0 in favor of the application, with Council President David R. Wohleben, R-4th Ward, abstaining. Wohleben, a Fire Board member, said, "I don't have enough information to say yes or no."

Alderman Joseph P. Oates, R-1st Ward, said, "It seems to me there are plenty of guys who want to provide this service, and the only thing stopping them is this certificate."

"We should allow these people to use their skills and their training," said Alderman Richard E. Abbott, D-5th Ward.

Alderman R. Joseph O'Shaughnessy, D-at large, said he has personal reasons for supporting the measure.

"My heart goes in and out of A-fib (atrial fibrillation)," he said. "If I have a heart attack, I have 3 1/2  to 4 1/2  minutes to live. I want a fireman who knows me, knows where I live, rather than somebody who doesn't even know where Walnut Street is."

The city's ambulance service is provided by Twin City Ambulance, whose president, Terry P. Clark, accused Alderman Mark S. Devine, R-3rd Ward, of making "ridiculous allegations" last week. Devine, a retired assistant fire chief, said he wanted advanced life support services for the department because firemen couldn't do anything when a Hawley Street woman fell asleep, rolled over and suffocated her 2 1/2 -month-old daughter last month.

Clark said the records show that Twin City arrived at the call eight seconds after the fire truck did. Clark said, "Don't be manipulated. Don't be deceived and don't be played for fools."

Devine denied complaining about the response time in that incident. "In other calls, absolutely, yes," he said. He told Clark, "This resolution has everything to help your service, not to hinder it."

Clark accused Devine of starting "a completely manufactured controversy." Devine said the genesis of his concern wasn't the baby's death, but the loss of paramedic services almost two years ago.

Copyright 2016 The Buffalo News

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