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7 jobs cut from ambulance company serving NY army base

The reshuffling of ground transport methods means Fort Drum will rely more on army medics for transport in non-life threatening situations

By Gordon Block
Watertown Daily Times

FORT DRUM, N.Y. — A reshuffling of emergency ground transport methods for training range exercises means the loss of seven jobs for Guilfoyle Ambulance Services Inc.

As of Friday, the post will rely on Army medics to provide immediate care for injured soldiers in non-life-threatening situations, and aid their movement from the range to transfer points accessible by ambulances for local companies. Those area ambulances will drive soldiers the rest of the way to local hospitals. There are no changes for care during life-threatening situations, in which soldiers are taken by medical helicopter to the hospital.

The post’s contract with the ambulance company will end next May, but the shift in transport methods, and subsequent layoffs, took place on Friday.

The company has worked with the post for about 10 years. Though the cost of Guilfoyle’s work has varied over time, the post’s public affairs office estimated the annual savings by switching from Guilfoyle will be about $1.5 million to $2 million.

Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, the post’s garrison commander, said soldier safety was a top priority.

“I am confident, based on long-term planning discussions with both Jefferson and St. Lawrence County Emergency coordinators, that the volunteer and pay for service ambulance support to Fort Drum will be sufficient in meeting ground health care transportation needs,” he said in a statement from the post.

David Palmer, who represents the seven ambulance workers for the Service Employees International Union Local 200 United, disagreed with the post’s outlook, stating the ambulance transfer risked losing a continuity of care for the soldier patients. Prior to the change, injured soldiers would travel in one ambulance the whole route.

“Transferring from one ambulance to another, you are missing time,” he said. “To me, that’s not doing the right thing for the patient.”

Even in non-life-threatening situations, Mr. Palmer argued, patient systems can change.

“The sooner the soldier is in the hospital, the better the pain management,” he said.

Jefferson County Emergency Services Director Joseph D. Plummer said that the Indian River, Gouverneur, Carthage, Natural Bridge and Evans Mills ambulance companies will be the companies primarily responding to potential calls from the range.

“I don’t see it being a huge issue,” he said. “It appears to me they will be able to handle it.”

The loss of seven workers and the sustained business from the post is harmful to the ambulance company, Mr. Palmer said.

“That’s substantial for an ambulance company in the north country,” he said.


©2014 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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