Volunteer Conn. EMS agency asks town for $600K to help with staffing struggles
East Hampton Ambulance Association says it has lost 10 members over the last year, and nearly 30 have reduced their hours
The Middletown Press, Conn.
EAST HAMPTON, Conn. — For nearly 70 years, the East Hampton Ambulance Association has served the residents in good times and bad under the motto "neighbors helping neighbors."
But now, a combination of factors, including increased regulations, more stringent requirements, and rising call volumes, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, has created hardships for the association and, by extension, the community, officials said.
"Volunteerism is down, the standards for EMTs, OSHA requirements and regional mandates have affected our number of our responders and COVID-19 has exacerbated this issue," Association Chief Donald Scranton said in a letter to the Town Council.
To address the issues, Scranton is asking the Town Council to set aside a portion of the funds that will be allocated to the town as part of the American Rescue Plan stimulus package.
Specifically, Scranton is asked for the council to set aside $600,000 — half for this year, half for next year.
"We've lost many valuable members responding over the last year alone. Recruitment is down and fear is high," Scranton wrote. "We've lost 10 members, 28 reduced their hours due to COVID concerns, job interference or medical reasons."
Through it all, the association maintained a 95 percent efficiency, he said, though, taken together, the changes have meant "a loss of 13,110 hours of manpower."
As some members withdrew because medical issues that affected them or their families, or because of job requirements, other members "stepped up and contributed more hours than they regularly do," according to Scranton.
The reductions in staffing have created issues for both the police and for residents, Scranton said.
It is not uncommon, he said, for police officers to have to wait for as long as 30 minutes for an ambulance crew to assemble and respond to the scene.
For situations where East Hampton must rely on mutual aid and call on ambulances from neighboring towns, that the wait can be as long as an hour, he said.
The Police Department "has provided a valuable asset to the emergency services, a service that is appreciated," Scranton said.
But the delays in ambulance responses are delaying them from being freed up to perform their sworn duties, he said.
If the council concurs with Scranton's request, it will enable the ambulance association to "allow 24 hours, 7 days a week guaranteed 2 EMTs for emergency response," he said.
The two EMTs would be subjected to "a streamlined testing and interview process, and would become employees of the association, he said.
The association would also continue to rely upon a cadre of volunteers, he said.
Because it is a volunteer organization, "We can't pay our members," he said.
The non-profit association "doesn't charge the town anything," he said.
Scranton said he came forward now to put the topic on the table, to make the council aware of the situation and to propose an option going forward.
"My actions are purely pro-active," he said.
The reasons people are leaving the association are many and varied, Scranton said during a telephone interview.
"Members get exposed to adverse weather, hazardous substances, stressful incidents," Scranton said.
People who use drugs can expose EMTs to dangerous substances, he said.
Emergency medical technicians also are called upon to respond to a wide variety of sobering, even heartbreaking incidents, Scranton said.
"Every fatality I've been to I can remember it to the finest detail," he said.
(c)2021 The Middletown Press, Conn.