Many challenges confront EMS squads

A recent news article on the Lake George Emergency Squad cited Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson asking squad captain Chris Hawley at a recent budget workshop what would happen if the town flat-out rejected the squad’s request for $251,000 for 2014 — an increase of $111,000 over 2013.

Hawley is quoted as saying the squad would discontinue operation and the town could hire Empire Ambulance.

Maybe a paid, professional EMS enterprise would be the way to go. Empire already was awarded a “Certificate of Need” for all of Warren County. When North Warren EMS once closed its doors temporarily, Empire sent crews to cover, at a cost, until adequate volunteer staff could be found, and to give the squad time to reorganize.

North Warren EMS uses E5 Staffing, a private venture, to fill the gaps in coverage not provided by volunteers. As the state upgrades the EMS system to the national standards, area EMTs are witnessing changes — some for the better, some for the worse. The bottom line is, what has happened to the volunteer?

First, let’s look at what it takes to be a volunteer EMT. The EMT Course has three components: Didactic (120 hours) which includes practical, hands-on skills training; the Clinical/field ride-along (minimum 24 hours total of observation with a minimum of 10 patient contacts), and final testing (4-8 hours). Through lectures, interactive presentations, skills labs and simulations, individuals acquire knowledge and skills so they can properly care for patients. The cost of this training is $700 for the original course and $335 for a refresher sessions — plus the cost of books. After courses are completed, squads can get reimbursed for the cost of the class only — and squads, of course must pay for students who don’t finish the course, or those who don’t end up serving the agency.

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