NY town establishes task force to improve ambulance service
The task force seeks to bring together ambulance corps and town leaders to best make use of available funds
TOWN OF MONTGOMERY, N.Y. — After struggling with funding shortfalls for years, the town's ambulance corps has an opportunity to improve its services through a fund from the town.
The demand for emergency medical services in the town has risen to about 2,000 calls a year since the Town of Montgomery Volunteer Ambulance Corps was established in 1962.
The corps, however, has been providing the services at a deficit for years. said Eric Shorette, captain of TOMAC. A 2018 finance report shows expenses exceeded revenue by $15,579. After separating from the town in 2011, TOMAC is funded mostly through patients' bills and donations.
Over the years, Shorette has worked hard to maintain operation of the corps. Last year Shorette reached out to the town for help and proposed a $300,000 budget. Although only a fund of $100,000 was approved, he was relieved that the money would offset the basic cost of operation. Septic system maintenance, rusty bay doors and outdated equipment would have to wait.
The corps relies on 22 paid EMTs, nearly 30 volunteers and three ambulances to serve the 51-square-mile community. Last year volunteers logged about 6,300 hours of service in total. However, paramedics are needed from outside agencies for serious cases, such as cardiac issues, difficulty in breathing and stroke. Sometimes, Shorette said, no one is available. The $300,000 he proposed would allow the corps to hire at least one paramedic.
"We can't survive if the town doesn't support," Shorette said. "I'm looking forward to working with the town to help the ambulance corps and for all the people who support us."
To identify the fund shortfalls and better understand how to utilize the fund, Supervisor Brian Maher established an Advisory Task Force to look into ambulance services within the town. A presentation on how to best spend the funds budgeted for this year is expected at a special meeting in February; another meeting in May would highlight a more comprehensive plan to ensure the corps' long-term operation.
Resident Michael McNamee, a former corps member who is on the Advisory Task Force, looks to bring a timely response to the community.
"We need to figure out not only where the money goes but what is to be done to improve the service," McNamee said.
Maher said it's a fundamental issue faced throughout the state and it will take all parties working together to produce a positive result.
"The purpose of the task force is to establish short-term and long-term goals to ensure we offer the best ambulance service to residents in the Town of Montgomery," Maher said.
©2020 The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.