Many challenges confront EMS squads

That’s not all. For further training, there is an Advanced EMT course also taught at a nearby squad at the cost of $950. The highest level of EMT is a Paramedic, a two-year college course currently not offered in Warren County.

Tuition costs vary from $3,000 to $13,000 or more. Often after completion of the paramedic course, the students are hired by EMS companies for better wages than many EMS agencies in Warren County can offer.

It’s a job that you must love to do, being called out all hours of the night or day, with shifts being 12 to 24 hours, with most starting with poor hourly wages, primarily part-time work with no health insurance provided.

So what has happened to the volunteer? As more and more volunteer EMS agencies start to pay staff less and less, volunteers ask themselves why they would give up 12 hours to volunteer for a shift, when the person on duty beside them is getting paid.

There’s also the question of “soft billing” and how much patients end up getting charged for services.

Both Empire and Lake George EMS pay staff, both are paramedic-certified ambulances, both bill, but with Empire responding, patients must pay for services. Lake George EMS and many other volunteer squads in the region aggressively bill insurance companies, but don’t pursue payments from uninsured patients after sending out a few bills.

Cost verses benefit: Some agencies in Warren County staff 24/7 during the summer months when the average call volume requires the coverage, then rely on mutual aid off-season. As a taxpayer and full-time resident, I wonder why I am not as important as the part-time residents and tourists.

Ideally, when an emergency responder shows up at your home to provide service, he or she is local and knows your name, your medical issues and other vital information, because they have provided service beforehand.

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