CHENANGO COUNTY — U.S. Representative Marc Molinaros announced last week $50 million funding measure for rural Emergency Medical Services (EMS) agencies, legislation that has drawn Democratic support in the House of Representatives.
Congressional lawmakers are pressing for millions of dollars in funding to support local EMS organizations facing financial struggles made even more complicated by the COVID pandemic.
Molinaro said, “EMS agencies are being asked to do more, with less staff, less funds, and fewer resources. While we like to say our EMS personnel are heroes, and they are, we can't expect them to do the impossible.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will receive a grant program from the bill, enabling funding to support public, private and non-profit organizations. Also state and local governments to receive funding for training and hiring personnel, improving facilities and reimbursement for training.
The measure will also provide $5 million in funding to support EMS agencies in the process of applying for grants.
Rural ambulance services raised concerns regarding funding and personnel with Molinaro, which in turn, caused Molinaro to write the legislation.
Coventry Emergency Squad Advanced EMT Kyle Button said, “In Chenango County, we face equipment issues, older ambulances, supply limitations and a shortage of personnel.”
“Insurance payments arrive late and sometimes not at all, thus creating a spiraling effect of a less than adequate budget to purchase newer equipment, keeping supplies in stock and providing on going training,” he added.
“EMS is not an essential service per NYS Law, therefore, towns, villages, and cities are not required by law to have an ambulance service to cover their areas,” said Button.
The Coventry Emergency Squad covers the Town of Coventry, parts of the Town of Greene, Bainbridge, Afton, Guilford, Mt. Upton, Oxford, Harpursville, and Sidney, all inclusive of the Chenango County's Mutual Aid Agreement.
“EMS in New York State is seeing a longer turn time at the hospitals. We call it 'Wall Time', which is a result of people checking into ER for non-emergency issues and taking beds that should be open for incoming EMS patients,” Button said. “EMS are responsible to care for their patients inside the hospital until a bed is found and when a nurse is available to take the patient. Ambulances an be tied up for approximately 20 minutes, unable to respond to other 911 calls.”
On average a Rural EMS call is anywhere from two to four hours with transport times typically 30 minutes to a hospital.
Button explained the EMS Units are suffering and that funding support for inventory supplies, recruitment events, updated equipment; such as power stretchers and CPR devices, along with additional EMS classes, is desperately needed to ensure our communities are well taken care of with the best equipment and personnel.