Figuring out EMS county's top goal for 2021


By Patsy Nicosia

It’s dangerous or brave or both to put your New Year’s resolutions out there for everyone to see.
But despite the year that was 2020, Schoharie County didn’t do too bad, Board of Supervisors chair Bill Federice said Friday as he put down a roadmap for 2021.
Solar, EMS, economic development and the CSEA contract were all on Mr. Federice’s 2020 list of goals; the CSEA contract’s been settled, but the other three remain. (See related stories.)
It was on March 13, 2020 that the county declared a State of Emergency because of soaring COVID numbers across the state.
“COVID did set us back, but we were able to make some traction on our goals,” he said, even as it underscored the importance of finding a longterm solution to EMS services—Mr. Federice’s top goal for 2021; he’s named a group that includes supervisors Peggy Hait, Dick Lape, and Sandy Manko to “aggressively” look into it and report back with a plan.
“We are not going to recruit our way out of this problem,” Mr. Federice said.
“Lately, five or six agencies are being toned out…sometimes it takes as much as an hour. I do think it’s reached the point of crisis. We need to take it to the next step and figure out what it would take to fix it” all the way up to a full-fledged county EMS “and how much it would cost.”
The answer to how much it will cost is likely to be a lot, but based on what he hears from residents, Mr. Federice said, they’re ready to pay it.
Mike Hartzel, EMO head, recounted a call that began in Richmondville, was bounced to Cobleskill—where there was a paid EMT, but no driver—before being sent to Summit, then Carlisle, then Central Bridge.
Calls “roll over” every nine minutes, he said.
“And this is happening day in and day out. Even with paid EMTs. Cobleskill gets 1,000 calls a year and they couldn’t get a driver.”
Cobleskill Supervisor Leo McAllister told the story of a woman who passed out at Ash Wednesday services.
After two calls to 911, someone drove her to the Emergency Room.
And when his wife had a heart attack, Esperance Supervisor Earl VanWormer said, there was no driver in Esperance and they had to wait for an EMT from Central Bridge.
It could have cost her her life, he said.
Mr. Lape, a member of the Summit Rescue Squad, said the problem used to be finding EMTs; now it’s drivers.
In Conesville, Mr. Federice said, he’s the driver for 90 percent of the calls—something that doesn’t work when he’s handling his duties in Schoharie.
Gilboa Supervisor Alicia Terry said fire protection is also a big issue for her town.
“Gilboa is all eyes and ears,” she said. “We could have used this yesterday, but understand, you might not have an answer until 2023 or beyond.”
Filling in the holes of the Richmondville to Central Bridge call, Carlisle Supervisor John Leavitt said his town’s go-to driver, Bob Smith, struggled to get out of his driveway that night.
“He rolls on every call, He rolls every hour of the night,” Mr. Leavitt said. “They get burned out. We have to get additional help.”