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Madison County officials seek solutions to dwindling EMS volunteers

Posted 11/16/22

“Failure is not an option!” That was the message from Madison County Director of Emergency Management Dan Degear.

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Madison County officials seek solutions to dwindling EMS volunteers

Posted

WAMPSVILLE — “Failure is not an option!”

That was the message from Madison County Director of Emergency Management Dan Degear as he spoke to the members of the Criminal Justice, Public Safety, and Emergency Communications Committee last month.

Degear is referring to providing emergency services such as 911 Communicators, Emergency Medical Service providers, police officers and firefighters.

As a citizen of Madison County, when you dial 911 you expect that your phone call will be quickly answered, and the appropriate help is on the way, officials said. That reality is becoming more and more difficult to guarantee in counties, like Madison County, across the state. Membership and staffing at both paid and volunteer emergency agencies has been dwindling for years.

Recently the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workforce and the entire health care system has only exacerbated that issue. All of our first responder services are seeing the strain, and Madison County is looking for new ways to make sure services such as police, fire, EMS, 911, and corrections continue to provide excellent service for our community.

Right now, as the Madison County Board of Supervisors have their sights set on how to assist all of our first response agencies, they are focusing on one of its hardest hit services, that of EMS or ambulance providers.

Madison County EMS Coordinator Jenna Illingworth said that EMS concerns are “... the result of increased costs, stagnant insurance reimbursement rates, provider availability, and a diminishing rate of volunteerism.”

“Madison County’s EMS agencies are working hard day in and day out,” continued Illingworth, “but the environment that they operate in makes it extremely difficult to thrive. Additionally, some insurance companies send the reimbursement payments directly to the patient and not to the EMS agency providing the service forcing the agency to seek out payment from the patient. This often leads to EMS agencies using debt collection services, legal options, or simply writing off the debt and not receiving any payment.”

“It is absolutely unacceptable that EMS is not considered an essential service by the State of New York,” said Criminal Justice, Public Safety, and Emergency Communications Committee Chairman Paul Walrod. “Today we are making a statement with the resolution that was passed, that the Madison County Board of Supervisors believes EMS should be considered essential and we are asking that state leaders make this change.”

“Giving our EMS providers the recognition they deserve is not the only thing the county can do,” said Madison County Board Chairman John Becker. “The Madison County Board of Supervisors is looking for ways to not only support our local EMS providers, but also ensure residents that their safety and health is a top priority. That is why everything right now is on the table. We are asking our EMS providers what do you need to not only survive, but to thrive. Is it assistance with education, equipment, money for wages, or other ideas? The board agrees that they can not wait another year or two to try and see if things get better. The time to act is now to ensure failure is not in the future for Madison County or Madison County’s EMS providers.”

Madison County, in February, put an ALS Fly Car on the road to help alleviate some of the pain being felt by the EMS providers. In the nine months, the now two ALS Fly Cars have been on the road, we can see how assistance from the county can help fill gaps across the rural region.

“First responders are the backbone of our society, they are the people who sacrifice precious time with their families to assist our whole community in times of need,” said Degear, “Madison County is committed to the safety of our community and to support those who work so hard to contribute to this mission.”

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