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Thurman ponders future of its emergency squad

"I was looking if we have the money to put in a room," he said. "We don't have the facilities to support volunteers."

He said that Newcomb has only 50 to 70 calls a year, but has a $170,000 budget.

"The only way we'll get people there is a paid staff," he said.

Pitkin disputed the idea.

"I don't see how Thurman can afford it," he said.

McKinney said that daytime calls presented a big problem, considering that people were busy working.

McKinney said that EMS squads all over the state are facing ever more restrictive training requirements.

"The state is shoving everything down our throats," he said. Pitkin sympathized, noting he looked into training to become an EMT, and it required three hours per week for six months.

McKinney proposed adding an EMS staffer to the town payroll, with the town assigning duties during the many hours not responding to emergencies.

"He could clean up cemeteries," McKinney said.

Pitkin, however, expressed reservations about paid staffing.

"You're asking me to pay for drivers, an ambulance, and our people are getting billed?" he said.

A discussion ensued about "soft" billing for services, a practice when patients and their insurance companies are billed, but the charges are not pursued with individuals if the person who is served by the ambulance cannot afford it.

The Warrensburg emergency squad captain Steve Emerson said that even with payments for ambulance service the squad finances were "very hard." He said that Medicaid reimburses only $70 and Medicare $270 per call. Pitkin said that the most soft billing would bring in annually would be $42,000, not enough to underwrite paid daytime staff.

Jill Nelson, who had ALS certification and was Thurman squad's past president until she discontinued her membership, said billing for services would displace donations.

"If we go to a paid squad, once we start billing, we can kiss our $6,000 donations goodbye," she said.

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