3 towns mull creation of joint EMS agency in N.Y., Mass.
The lack of EMS availability in the area has led a group of Stamford Fire Department members, EMS providers and residents to form the Northern Catskills EMS Council
The Daily Star, Oneonta, N.Y.
Feb. 22—A grant from a nonprofit organization will allow three towns in northern Delaware County to start a paid ambulance service if approved by voters.
The lack of emergency medical services in the three towns has led a group of Stamford Fire Department members, EMS providers and residents to form the Northern Catskills EMS Council, a media release said.
Don VanEtten, the Stamford Volunteer Fire Department chief, is president and director of the Robinson Broadhurst Foundation, which is providing the grant. The organization, according to its website, "serves to improve the lives of the residents of Stamford and Worcester, New York and Winchendon, Massachusetts."
VanEtten said the program is in its early planning stages, but EMS coverage is sorely needed in the towns of Stamford, Harpersfield and Kortright.
He said a board of directors of the NCEMSC has been formed, with representation from each town, and it will be tasked with coming up with a plan to provide the paid service to the three towns and hiring an administrator to oversee the program. He said that as director of the foundation he spent a tremendous amount of time researching paid services, and said members of the Hancock and Sidney EMS services were very helpful.
VanEtten said Stamford discontinued its ambulance service about five years ago. It only responds to calls as a first-responder unit, which responds to an emergency call using the department's fly car with medical supplies and treats the patient until an ambulance arrives.
"We rely on all our neighbors to respond to our calls," he said. This includes the Hobart volunteer ambulance squad, which has volunteers who have 30 and 40 years of experience and are ready to retire, and the Bloomville ambulance squad, which has four or five members responsible for responding to calls, he said.
The Stamford fire district had 432 ambulance calls in 2021, and the district received mutual aid from ambulance services located in nearby towns, Greene, Schoharie and Otsego counties and from the commercial countywide ambulance service American Medical Response, he said.
" Stamford is a very busy community," VanEtten said.
He said the average wait time for an ambulance is 45 minutes, but said people have waited more than three hours for an ambulance and knows of one person who called for an ambulance at night and called again the next day.
"No one was available," he said. "They toned out everyone in the county and from surrounding counties."
He said now that Schoharie County has a countywide ambulance service, it will only supply mutual aid to calls in the Stamford fire district that are in Schoharie County.
Delaware County Emergency Services Director Steve Hood said during a recent county committee meeting on the American Rescue Plan Act that Schoharie County made the change because the state certificate of need was only granted to Schoharie County, so the ambulance cannot cross the border.
VanEtten said the new ambulance district will apply for a certificate of need to supply coverage to the three towns, but won't do that until the board is ready to implement the plan. Once the certificate is granted, the entity must supply coverage within 90 days, he said.
Before the certificate can be applied for, taxpayers in each town must approve the service. If approved, the foundation will give the new EMS service $900,000 the first year for expenses, VanEtten said.
Kortright Town Supervisor George Haynes said the town board was approached by the foundation, as well as the towns of Stamford and Harpersfield, to discuss the need for a paid ambulance service that would serve the three towns, and said he was in favor of starting the paid service.
"We need to do something," Haynes said.
(c)2022 The Daily Star (Oneonta, N.Y.)