The long-sought goal of creating an emergency medical service cooperative is now within reach, which will help EMS workers to focus on saving lives.
People join to do EMS work, not paperwork, Deborah L. Singleton, executive director of the Adams-based South Jeff Rescue Squad, said in an interview Friday at her office. People join because they want to help people.
The plan, however, comes with some adjustments of what was proposed five years ago. The cooperative will help the rescue squads work together, while avoiding, for now, some of the more contentious issues that could have led to inter-agency squabbling.
Jefferson County will use a state grant to fund a paid position within the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization. Originally, the county proposed creating a separate nonprofit agency, an idea thats been shelved for now.
The cooperative run through the FDRHPO will not have its own license to operate anywhere in the county, called a certificate of need. That will help avoid the turf wars among the myriad volunteer and paid ambulance services in the county, said county Legislator James A. Nabywaniec, chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee. It also will avoid some of the thorny legal questions, like those surrounding cooperative billing through Medicare and Medicaid.
Under the scaled-back proposal, a paid staffer within the FDRHPO will administer the $129,603 grant, which can be used to help the rescue squads purchase items in bulk, coordinate training and share equipment and staff.
The measure will go before the committee chaired by Mr. Nabywaniec, R-Calcium, on Tuesday. The FDRHPO approved the move at a meeting earlier this week.
Six weeks of planning by an ad hoc committee also chaired by Mr. Nabywaniec helped to produce a report that came out Thursday. Mr. Nabywaniec said hes continuing to learn about the needs of the volunteer rescue squads in the county; on Friday, he sat with Ms. Singleton in her rescue squads office and discussed the plan while waiting for a call to come through on the scanner so he could ride along with first responders to learn more about their work.
Its a process, Mr. Nabywaniec said.
Its a process that had fits and starts, and a few bumps along the way.
Supporters of Guilfoyle Ambulance Service, a for-profit EMS operator, had worried about the proposals effect on the work the company does. Guilfoyle currently is the only operator with the ability to respond to calls anywhere in the county. A nonprofit agency created by the county that had that same ability could have cut into Guilfoyles business, some worried.
As for whether a full-fledged nonprofit with a countywide license to operate was still possible at some point, Mr. Nabywaniec said: Thats still up for discussion. It has to be proved viable.
The end result, Ms. Singleton hopes, is for people who live in the northern parts of Jefferson County to get the same medical treatment as those who live in the southern part.