Squad looks for 24/7 coverage


By Jim Poole

The Cobleskill Rescue squad wants to provide ’round-the-clock, 24/7 coverage.
To do so, the squad must be able to secure funds to hire EMTs and paramedics. Plans are in the works.
The Village of Cobleskill currently holds the necessary certificate of need from the state Department of Health. This allows the village to “soft-bill” those who use the rescue squad.
Soft billing took in about $240,000 last year, according to rescue squad Captain Mike Lent. Of that total, $53,000 paid for a county EMT to be in Cobleskill from 7am to 4pm; $30,000 went for squad maintenance and supplies; and $65,000 went to the village for the squad to rent a bay, office and storage room in the firehouse.
Whatever’s left goes into a capital reserve fund for the rescue squad.
Mr. Lent wants the squad to get the certificate of need so volunteers, not the village, could manage the money differently––specifically, hire EMTs.
“The village won’t hire,” Mr. Lent said. “I understand that.
“But we have nothing against the village.”
He sees the future squad as a mix of paid and volunteer members.
“Everyone’s on board with this,” Mr. Lent said of the squad’s 45 to 50 members. “This is all about patient care. And this would be at no cost to taxpayers.”
Volunteers answered about 70 percent of its 1,400 calls last year in its coverage area––Cobleskill town and village and parts of Seward and Richmondville.
Mr. Lent wants to raise that percentage to 100, but there’s another impetus, too. He said the state will require squads to respond to 80 percent of their calls in 2024 and 85 in 2025.
The Cobleskill Rescue Squad probably wouldn’t hit those marks without making changes, Mr. Lent said.
Although EMTs may be scarce, Mr. Lent believes the rescue squad could do so. He’s talked with paid squads and figured out competitive pay.
“And they’d be working in a friendly environment,” he said, making a Cobleskill job more attractive.
The switch may happen in a couple of months, and Mr. Lent cautioned against expecting overnight success.
“We’ll start small,” he said. “It might not be a full schedule at first.”
Eventually, Mr. Lent said, the squad wants to move out of the firehouse into its own home. He’s looked at a few locations but hasn’t settled on one.
Still to be done is the paperwork for the certificate of need and lawyers for the squad and village to work out the details.
That’s what Mayor Becky Terk wants to see. She’s concerned about getting all the fine print settled.
“It has to be done right,” Mayor Terk said. “My gut feeling is that I hope it works.
“But it has to be good for them and good for the village.”
Mr. Lent believes it will be.
“We want to provide the best care we possible can,” he said. “The ultimate goal is 24/7 coverage.”