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November 20, 2013

EMS volunteer woes spark discussion

ELIZABETHTOWN — Finding emergency medical service volunteers is getting tough.

And that might wind up costing the taxpayers in area towns.

At a recent meeting, County EMS Coordinator Patty Bashaw told the Essex County Board of Supervisors that finding ambulance-squad volunteers in Crown Point has become a big problem.

“I’ve been down there a couple times to help them brainstorm an idea to help come up with a plan for Crown Point,” she said. “You are going to see this across the whole county.

“You really need to be thinking outside of the box as to how you come up with a plan for your different towns.”

Supervisor Michael Marnell (R-Schroon) said Schroon Lake Ambulance is also having trouble finding people.

“I’m looking for ideas. I can see, if it goes the way it is, in two years, we’ll be looking to a paid EMS,” he said.

“Ambulances are out every day, sometimes twice, sometimes three times, and you are running the squad with a limited number of people. 

“We are going to be paying full-time personnel.”

‘COST OF AGING’

Bashaw’s home squad, Elizabethtown-Lewis Ambulance, has also gone to partially paid, she said.

“We have a paid person during the day, and then we have volunteers at night. I’m still having to pay people for the weekends, because people are working two or three jobs (or) they have kids. 

“I mean it’s just on and on.”

TRAINING DEMANDS

She said part of the problem is that the state constantly increases the amount of training needed, and people don’t have that much time to spare.

“The hours have gone from 110 hours for the EMT class up to 160, 170 just in this past year.”

The other part of the issue is Baby Boomers getting older, people living longer and shorter hospital stays that sometimes require re-admission when people go home too soon.

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