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County plans for coordinated EMS

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Officials in Jefferson County hope to get a nonprofit organization launched that would help the disparate emergency medical system organizations in the county work better together.

The effort would help improve response times during medical emergencies and would keep the medical staffs working on patients instead of budgets, said Charles F. Brenon III, the county EMS director.

“Nobody gets into EMS to say, ‘Hey, I want to do billing,’” Mr. Brenon said. “They’re not going to sit through a 160-hour (training program) so they can flip chicken at a fundraiser.”

Mr. Brenon compared the effort to the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which helps school districts coordinate. Each squad would still have its own identity, one of the major questions that Mr. Brenon said he’s fielded since the six-year process of starting the organization began.

“This is all an effort to support these individual EMS agencies,” Mr. Brenon said.

He said several outfits in the county are willing to sign on.

The Jefferson County Legislature could act soon to appoint the initial three directors of a nonprofit organization.

“One of the big problems here is that a lot of our agencies are only a few members strong,” Mr. Brenon said. “They’re all very dedicated to providing the best patient care they can, but they also have to do all those management functions — quality control, patient care reports, an infection control officer.”

The proposed nonprofit organization would help ease that burden.

It also would help bulk purchasing; instead of each agency buying medical supplies on its own, several could pool together to buy more at a lower cost.

Eventually, Mr. Brenon envisions the nonprofit helping the organizations coordinate their efforts.

During the winter, with slippery surfaces on Interstate 81, more emergency response is required in southern Jefferson County. Less is needed in Clayton. It’s the reverse during the summer, he said.

“We could have an organization that would allow that kind of sharing of assets,” Mr. Brenon said, from ambulances to personnel.

The county’s efforts have been buoyed by several startup grants from the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization and the state. Some years down the road, it could be supported by user fees, Mr. Brenon said.

“The primary vision of the organization is to make sure patients get high-quality care,” Mr. Brenon said.

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