Ambulance response concerns ignite controversy in Thurman

THURMAN - As of Jan. 1, the local ambulance squad has stopped responding to emergency calls after their contract wasn't renewed by the town board, and the agency's Warrensburg counterparts have taken over their emergency calls. This situation has ignited controversy over whether a local squad should be providing the service.

Some Thurman residents have been expressing concern that the local Thurman Emergency Medical Services agency could offer faster vital services than ambulances stationed in Warrensburg, about six miles away from Athol, Thurman's largest hamlet.

They also have said that the town should be supporting its own squad, rather than contracting with an agency based out-of-town. But Thurman's leaders have said they haven't contracted with the Thurman squad because it lost its Advanced Life Support Certification last year, and that taxpayers were unwilling to bankroll paid staffing, which is a necessity for ALS certification in the face of declining availability of qualified, trained volunteers.

The Thurman squad has not responded to alerts since Jan. 1, after they were notified by the state their Workmen's Compensation Insurance had expired.

Thurman squad President Jim Desourdy said Sunday that squad officials decided their members shouldn't be responding if they didn't have such coverage, which was traditionally paid for by the town.

Town Supervisor Evelyn Wood said that the town board had decided not to pay for the Workmen's Compensation for the squad, on the advice of the town attorney, because the town didn't have a service contract with the group.

Desourdy said that the Warrensburg Emergency Medical Services ambulances weren't able to reach the far reaches of Thurman as fast as his hometown squad could, and delays of 15 or 20 minutes could mean the potential loss of life in heart attacks and other ailments. Proponents of utilizing the Warrensburg squad, however, have argued that the agency has for decades responded without consequential delay, and they already maintain paid staffing fully trained and certified for ALS.

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