Friday, September 24, 2021

North Warren EMS needs help

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer

North Warren Emergency Services says it is in dire need of staff.

“It’s hard to pass by a business without a help wanted sign, right. And same thing is really true in public safety as well,” said Mike Geraci, a member of the board and Horicon Town Councilman too.

“We need people. Volunteerism is a thing of the past. Clearly. There are no volunteers, there’s nobody standing in the wings, waiting to offer their assistance…

“But even paying people, the EMTs, paramedics, it’s hard to even get those folks engaged,” he added.

Operations Manager Izzy Modert said North Warren has over 700 EMS calls annually in a large service area. “I believe it’s 35 square miles….Brant Lake, Town of Horicon, Adirondack, Pottersville, Chestertown, a little bit of Minerva…”

They have 22 people on staff.

Instructor Bruce Barry, paramemic Tom Gulley, EMT Michelle Sanantonio, Ops Manager Izzy Modert and Councilman Mike Geraci. Chronicle photo/Zander Frost

Paramedic Tom Gulley said, “The state doesn’t count us as essential services. So the state mandates that you have to provide fire coverage and you have to provide police coverage, the sheriff’s department…”

“Because we’re not considered an essential service…towns are not required to do it and so they’re not able to reach out to grant funding and federal funding…”

A National EMS council report says, “EMS response is reported to be at the intersection of healthcare, public health, and public safety, yet reimbursement by health insurance providers is often the only source of funding.”

The towns of Horicon and Chester contribute, offsetting some cost. The rest is funded by patient billing and donations.

Mr. Gulley said, “We only get money if we take a patient to the hospital. So if we’re picking somebody up off the floor that’s injured or elderly…we don’t get revenue from that.”

He added, “There’s some departments in the state that are private companies and they send out outrageous bills to patients to try to fund their departments.”

North Warren has two ambulances. Bruce Barry, who teaches a parademic class in Elizabethtown, said there’s about $400,000 of equipment in one ambulance.

Mr. Modert said staff “don’t have sick time, they don’t have vacation time, they don’t have insurance, retirement, other things that other jobs that do these skills. They’re still at the bottom of the list.”

Rural communities lag behind urban areas in resources and pay. When an ambulance is called in Glens Falls, for example, fire and police are also likely to show up. In North Warren, it’s just EMS.

Mr. Modert said, “You got somebody that’s making $19 an hour here as a medic, you can go down there for $23 an hour with benefits and vacation time and sick time. Who wouldn’t do that?”

Many rural EMTs and paramedics piece together their income across several emergency teams. Mr. Gulley, for example, says he works 60 hours a week between North Warren and Johnsburg.

Mr. Barry said EMT training requirements start at 150 hours. The next level is 150 more, “plus they have to do — I want to say — it’s about 120 hours of clinical time in the hospital…And then the paramedic level is over 1,000 hours…”

Why do they still do it? EMT Michelle Sanantonio says, “No two days are the same. It’s wildly interesting to roll up to somebody’s house and have them explain to you what the problem is. And people just let you in. They let you into their life, into their home. And I think it’s super, super interesting.

Mr. Barry said, “People have to understand what they want available to them. If they want an ambulance available to them, they have to help support it.”

To get involved or donate, call 494-4317, or find North Warren EMS on Facebook.

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