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N.Y. county receives future EMS study as current private service contract expires

Niagara County officials are looking at county-owned, private and hybrid EMS as their contract with Mercy EMS ends


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By Rob Creenan
Niagara Gazette

NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. — The Niagara County legislature has received a preliminary version of an emergency services infrastructure study last week, with committees starting to review its findings.

Legislator David Godfrey said the legislature will hopefully make a decision on the study in a few weeks, which is not required to implement the recommendations in it. He did not say when the public would be able to view it.

Godfrey would not discuss any of the findings of the study until it has been reviewed.

The study was conducted by Rochester-based Center for Governmental Research starting this past August, conducting a “comprehensive evaluation” of Niagara County’s EMS needs now and in the future. It has also done evaluations for the Town of Cheektowaga and Ontario, Tioga, Allegany, and Somerset counties.

The three basic models of ambulance service are a county-owned model where paramedics work for the county, a private ambulance service contracted by the county, and a hybrid model where the county and private companies run services.

The county asked for the results by the beginning of October when it’s four-month contract with Mercy EMS expires. Mercy had dedicated two more ambulances for service calls to Niagara County on top of the three it already dedicated, costing the county $500,000.

Mike Gugliuzza, Mercy EMS director of medical operations, said earlier this month that the company’s average daily call volume in Niagara County has increased to 16.1 from 11.9 since the deal went into effect on June 15. The number of those calls requiring transport to a hospital has also increased, to 10.8 from 7.5.

CGR previously performed EMS evaluations for Ontario and Tioga counties and is currently doing the same for Allegany and Somerset counties and the City of Cheektowaga, Bishop said.

Volunteer fire companies with ambulances are struggling to meet high demand for their services.

On top of the membership challenges faced by all companies, the ones with an ambulance must recruit and retain volunteers who have EMT or higher certification — and then hope they can take the calls, day and night.

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