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Warren County EMS plan proposed, could add countywide responders

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Ambulances

Bay Ridge and Fort Edward Rescue Squad ambulances respond to the scene of a natural gas problem last year in Queensbury. The Warren County Office of Emergency Services should do more to help with EMS coverage.

The Warren County Office of Emergency Services is proposing the addition of two new emergency medical responder vehicles to assist those in rural areas who are having trouble getting to medical calls, a proposal that could cost up to a million dollars the first year.

The plan would add two “fly cars” equipped with medical equipment that would be used to supplement the rescue squads’ coverage. It could cost as much as $300,000 to get running and result in the hiring of up to 10 paramedics to staff the vehicles around the clock.

The goal would be to supplement the squads along the Northway corridor, north of Queensbury, with a crew of EMTs that could respond countywide as needed.

Brian LaFlure, the county’s Emergency Services director, said the $1 million figure was for a full team of paramedics, and smaller, less expensive plans were possible, depending on which towns want to get involved.

“Agencies that need the help can get the help,” LaFlure said. “We’re not forcing anybody into this. It’s a ‘use it as you need it’ scenario.”

Establishment of the “fly car” program was one of the major recommendations in a new report released this month as part of the Office of Emergency Services’ efforts to improve emergency medical response in the county. Essex County is creating a similar program, as have other rural counties in New York.

Falling numbers of volunteers have caused coverage gaps and delayed responses with many rescue squads, particularly in rural areas, and even led to the closure of one agency and service reductions at others.

Getting the county involved in EMS has been discussed for more than three years, and led to a 22-page report that was released in recent weeks. The report made a number of recommendations in addition to the creation of the fly car system.

LaFlure said several squads have indicated they would be interested in the help.

The $1 million figure was for a larger operation with up to 10 paramedics and a supervisor, he said. Vehicles are $80,000 apiece, and a heart monitor alone costs $40,000, he said.

“There are startup costs, and that could be a lot of money involved,” he said. “There are a lot of variables. It’s going to depend on how many squads would use the service.”

In addition to creation of the fly car system, the report recommends the following:

Analyzing rescue squad call data to “determine staffing and resource deployment needs in a more extensive manner.”

Having rescue squads use standardized software to report daily staffing and determine where help is needed.

Look at redundancy of equipment and staff with some agencies, and have squads work through the county on purchasing to save money through joint purchasing power. “There are areas where some of the squads can save money, with equipment and medications,” LaFlure said.

Work with North Warren EMS to stabilize its operations and finances, potentially doing away with its “advanced life support (ALS) “ capabilities and transitioning to a “basic life support” agency, with ALS provided by the county.

Work with Mountain Lakes Regional EMS Council to establish more training courses in Warren County.

Recruit a “dedicated” physician to serve as countywide medical director for advanced life support services.

Warren County supervisors got the report May 1 and no action was taken, pending a full review. Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty called it a good look at the “nuts and bolts” of the EMS staffing and response problem.

Some, though, expressed concern at the costs.

“It is a substantial number,” Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Ron Montesi said.

Supervisors have scheduled a meeting of the county board’s Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee to discuss the report at 11 a.m. Monday.

Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can also be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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