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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Top Stories > General

State of EMS is ‘critically weak'

Mar 19, 2020

By Isabel Braverman - staff writer

By: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Mobilemedic, an ambulance service in Sullivan County, has equipped an ambulance for isolation of patients that may have contracted the coronavirus.
MONTICELLO — Sullivan County Coroner Albee Bockman appeared before the county legislature on Monday night to deliver an important message: emergency medical services (EMS) are in need of help.
“The state of EMS in the State of New York, the Hudson Valley and Sullivan County is critically weak,” Bockman said.
A lack of state funding is causing ambulance services and other EMS agencies to close their doors. He said in 2019, several agencies (he believes the number to be six) across the state had to shut down.
“The fact of the matter is emergency medical services across our state are facing critical challenges that are endangering the safety and health of our residents. Low recruitment numbers, low retention and low reimbursement rates are crippling the ability of timely response of paramedics, EMT's and ambulances in the time of need,” Bockman said.

Reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid programs is set by government agencies, Bockman said, and the 2020 state budget eliminates crossover payments. He said EMS agencies have brought this issue to the state legislature, and “little to no movement is seen.”
Further, Bockman says there is inequality in pay among law enforcement, fire services and EMS. He said police earn 30 to 50 percent more than EMS workers, causing them to find other areas of employment.

EMS responds to coronavirus pandemic

Bockman also addressed the legislators on Monday with how EMS workers in the county are handling the coronavirus. Bockman is CEO of Mobilemedic, an ambulance service in the county.
“We are confronting the issue,” he said. “The EMTs and paramedics in your county have been educated, they are protected—the best that we can without the supplies that we need. We have minimal supplies of PPE [personal protective equipment], a dire need and we do not have that.”
EMS workers across the world are on the front lines of facing the coronavirus pandemic. Hospitals are taking extra precautions to isolate patients to help stop the spread of the disease. But what about ambulances?
“Mobilemedic has taken it upon itself to equip an ambulance for isolation of patients that may have contracted the virus. It's a serious matter, we need to protect the patient but we also need to protect those that are taking care of them,” Bockman said.
He urged the county legislators to draft a letter or resolution to send to the New York State Legislature asking for support.
“We're very concerned and we're being very cautious,” Bockman said. “We ask [for] your assistance in making sure the New York State government gives us what we need to protect you.”

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