To the Editor:
The September decision by the Otsego County Board of Representatives to implement a county-run emergency medical services (EMS) system is an unfortunate and ill-informed solution to the very serious problem of inadequate volunteer rural EMS in Otsego County. To the best of my knowledge, this plan was adopted without any public hearing or other public comment.
The projected cost of personnel, equipment, vehicles and miscellaneous items is estimated at $1M-$1.5M per year. The county-run system will be funded by grants for the first year of operation and, potentially, for the first few years of operation. According to various news reports, members of the County Board of Representatives have no idea how long grant money will be available to fund the county run EMS system. Eventually, the grant money will run out and county residents will be expected to pay for the system through tax increases. This is not a sustainable solution to Otsego County’s rural EMS crisis.
The shortage of rural EMS volunteers is critical across New York State. I am working with New York State Assemblyman John Salka to introduce a bill that would allow appropriately credentialed and experienced licensed independent providers (M.D.s, N.P.s, and P.A.s) to function at or above the level of a paramedic at the scene of a medical emergency. These providers would be required to be members of a volunteer fire company or EMS squad. They would not be required to complete an EMT or paramedic class; their level of function on the scene of an emergency would be based on their hospital experience and credentials.
If this bill becomes law, it would apply to New York State as a whole and not to just Otsego County. The pool of potential new EMS volunteers would increase tremendously and the cost would be minimal as the providers would already be trained to a high level of competence and proficiency. This is potentially a statewide solution to the rural EMS crisis.
Gary A. Wehner, Ph.D.