NY town seeks solution to years of deficient EMT volunteer staffing

Cape Vincent Ambulance Squad officials are seeking proposals for how to address years of deficient volunteer staffing

By Marcus Wolf
Watertown Daily Times

CAPE VINCENT, N.Y. — Years of deficient volunteer staffing has caused the Cape Vincent Ambulance Squad’s service to falter, and officials are seeking proposals for how to address the issue.

“The residents of the town and village of Cape Vincent need an ambulance service here, and we’re going to do all we can to see that they have one,” said squad President Ronald D. Jacobs.

Fewer than 10 emergency medical technicians man the ambulance squad, the town and village’s primary emergency medical transportation service, despite several unsuccessful efforts to increase its membership, Mr. Jacobs said. The lack of manpower has inhibited the organization’s ability to respond to calls, particularly during the daytime, he said.

A few residents shared their concerns about the squad’s scarce coverage during the Town Council’s Oct. 18 meeting, when it was revealed that the squad received 19 calls between mid-September to mid-October and could only respond to three, according to the minutes. The town pays Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue Service, or TIERS, to cover calls the volunteer squad cannot.

In response, the board formed a committee to explore options for ensuring the town has sufficient ambulance service coverage, according to Supervisor Edward P. Bender. The committee needs members, and the board will host a meeting to discuss the issue and recruit volunteers after the 6:30 p.m. budget hearing today at the Recreation Park building, 602 S. James St. Mr. Jacobs said he will attend.

“The problem is, what do we do about it?” Mr. Bender. “We’re just trying to do what we can do.”

The squad was previously intertwined with the Cape Vincent Joint Fire District, but became its own incorporated entity last year to recruit more volunteers.

The fire district can only recruit full-time town residents, but by becoming a separate entity, the local ambulance service can recruit anyone who is at least 18 and lives in the state at least part-time. The reduction of barriers to entry, however, has yet to yield results, Mr. Jacobs said.

The squad president and town supervisor both said recruiting volunteer emergency medical technicians has been challenging because of the extensive time commitment. In July, the squad sent out 1,300 contribution request letters that included a volunteer sign-up form, but practically no one joined the squad.

“We’ve got lots of contributions, but none of those people, except for the one (who volunteered to drive ambulances), were interested in volunteering,” Mr. Jacobs said.

Officials have recently considered a few possible options for the town and village. One option placed on the table was to retain a paid ambulance service, unlike the existing squad, which finances itself through donations. The caveat, however, is a price tag that could be up to $500,000, Mr. Bender said.

Fire district members have also looked into registering as first responders to help ailing residents while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

“It’s an excellent program and it gets someone to the scene,” faster, Mr. Bender said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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