County budget funds 2 EMTs
By Jim Poole
Rescue squads and the patients they serve will get a lift from Schoharie County next year.
The 2017 county budget includes money for two emergency medical technicians who'll go a long way towards helping squads make their calls.
Plans call for the EMTs to be stationed in Middleburgh and Richmondville, but will help surrounding areas, too.
Mike Hartzel, the county's director of Emergency Services, pushed for the EMTs after meeting separately with reps from the Richmondville Volunteer Emergency Squad and the Middleburgh Emergency Volunteer Ambulance Corps earlier this year.
Like many other squads, RVES and MEVAC have manpower problems, especially during the day, sometimes keeping them from answering calls.
"It's a local, statewide and national problem," said Richmondville Supervisor Dick Lape. "Volunteers are harder to get."
MEVAC President Steve Weinhofer agreed.
"We used to cover 24/7," he said. "It's a battle now."
Mr. Hartzel's plan calls for the county to hire a team of EMTs--the equivalent of two full-time positions--with one at MEVAC and one at RVES 12 hours per day.
Mr. Hartzel recommended RVES because the squad nearly closed two months ago because of manpower and money problems.
"And they'll also help with mutual aid," Mr. Hartzel said. "If Summit or Cobleskill can't get a crew together, Richmondville can cover the call."
MEVAC serves four towns--Middleburgh, Fulton, Blenheim and Broome--so it makes sense for an EMT to be there, Mr. Hartzel added.
And if another squad needs an EMT, one can be shifted elsewhere.
"They [the EMTs] will be county employees, so it's flexible," Mr. Hartzel said. "We can move them to another location if it's no longer necessary to have them in Middleburgh and Richmondville."
The cost will be $64,000, and the county will receive some reimbursement from the squads when EMTs go on a call.
RVES President Scott Bennett noted that paying reimbursements to the county will cut into the squad's income.
Having the EMTs, however, will keep the squads from failing to respond to calls, so the squads will get at least some money from calls they otherwise might have missed, Mr. Hartzel responded.
Giving an admittedly rough estimate, Mr. Weinhofer said MEVAC might respond to 20 percent more calls with the new EMT.
Despite his concerns about reimbursements, Mr. Bennett agreed that the new plan will help.
A RVES recruitment drive recently added new members, and one or two of them may become EMTs.
But it will take months of training to become EMTs, so Mr. Bennett welcomes the county plan.
Mr. Hartzel said there are still details to be worked out, but the EMT coverage is moving ahead.