Advocates came to Albany this week rallying to enhance emergency medical services (EMS) across the state. It comes as those in the field say wait times are getting longer, due in part to a lack of volunteers and funding.
The goal is to figure out ways to ensure coverage for all New Yorkers without taking away from the work being done by people who are devoting their lives to these services each and every day.
That’s why Steven Kroll, chairperson for the New York Volunteer Ambulance and Rescue Association, and other advocates are calling on New York lawmakers to “Rescue EMS” with a package of bills intended in part to reduce costs on local organizations.
“EMS services across New York state really are in crisis,” he said. “We are not paid what it costs us to actually take care of somebody who is a medicaid patient, we lose money on every one of those and one of the bills will correct that by increasing our rates.”
Another bill, he says, will assist in the implementation of telemedicine for what he calls low acuity needs that don’t require an emergency room visit visit, creating space for individuals who are in need of critical care.
“We can take you to the hospital but you’re going to wait in line for a long time and that ambulance is going to be out of service instead of being ready to supply care for the next person maybe having a stroke of heart attack, so this will enable treat in place,” he said.
A cornerstone of the package is funding county wide EMS coverage, but Ryan Gregoire, legislative director for the New York Association of Counties, says that’s about supporting and augmenting existing services.
“The county is not coming to take over and kick everyone out,” he said. “We’re just looking to supplement services that are maybe not available in one location or another.”
The irony of the slogan “Rescue EMS” was not lost on lawmakers like Assemblymember Anna Kelles, who stressed the critical importance of properly funding the service.
“We have got to create a solution that uplifts the very community that is keeping us alive as a community, so that’s the baseline that we’re saying,” she said.
Kroll emphasized that filling in current gaps in coverage and eliminating lengthy wait times, especially in New York’s rural areas, is urgent.
“So we can build a system for each community to make sure every single person when they call 911 will get an ambulance,” he said.
Also included are incentives to recruit and get more people involved in the field.