Montgomery County to seek ambulance operating authority for supplemental fly cars

Dan Smith

The exterior of the Montgomery County Courthouse off Fonda's Broadway.

FONDA — Montgomery County lawmakers may soon respond to emergency medical calls operating as flycars to compensate for reduced ambulance services. For months, officials have been preparing to seek certification from the state health department and the Adirondack-Appalachian Regional Emergency Medical Services Council that the pilot program should begin. The Montgomery County Legislature on Tuesday will consider a resolution approving an application to obtain ambulance service operating authority to establish a medical flycar system that can provide basic life support within the county precinct. The move was pushed for board-wide approval by lawmakers who were removed from the committee last week. County executive Matthew Ossenfort said obtaining operating authority from the state would allow officials to better manage local ambulance services. "This is a big step in the process, in terms of being able to control our own destinies, so to speak," said Ossenfort. Financial turmoil has shut down multiple ambulance services across the region in recent years, increasing reliance on a small number of regional agencies working to increase call volumes amid severe staffing shortages. The majority of countywide EMS calls are handled by the Greater Amsterdam Volunteer Ambulance Corps (GAVAC) and the St. Johnsville Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps (SAVAC). The Amsterdam Fire Department also provides an ambulance service in the city. Jeff Kaczor, deputy director of the Montgomery County Emergency Management Department, said they are already calling because the pool of medical providers to handle emergency medical calls in sprawling rural areas is shrinking. If the ambulance becomes unavailable or is otherwise delayed, the waiting time will be longer. "It's a little Band-Aid," Kaczor said. "Bridging the gap a bit to provide that level of care for residents until the ambulance arrives." A concept developed by the agency that allows the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department to have four deputies already qualified as EMTs or paramedics answer local medical calls when an ambulance is unavailable or delayed You will be able to "They don't answer every call," says Kaczor. "Their number one priority is law enforcement." Agents only answer medical calls while on duty and are relieved of emergency law enforcement duties. Local fire departments will also be dispatched, and if another certified provider exists, officers will be able to respond to police calls away from the medical site. "It's important to emphasize that our law enforcement function is always 100% our priority," said Montgomery County Sheriff Jeffrey Smith. If an agent fails to respond to law enforcement calls because they were involved in a medical emergency, Smith said another agent or state police will provide compensation. “If a representative is on-site in response and there are no other first responders on-site who are certified first responders or EMTs, then the representative must be with that medical patient and must be directed to another law enforcement agency. The car will respond to the incident," Smith said. Deputies also have the power to refuse medical calls if they are already deployed or busy with law enforcement duties. Flycar personnel provide on-site medical assistance only, not transportation. With certified agents already available on staff, counties can initially pilot the fly car program at no additional cost, except for the cost of equipping officers with the necessary medical supplies. Depending on the success of the program, the agency may eventually consider upgrading the Certificate of Need to provide advanced life support and expand operations to include emergency services throughout the county. “We still have a lot of work to do. We are taking small steps and will continue to reassess how the situation unfolds,” said Kaczor. If the necessary approvals are granted by Congress and the state, the county will have 40 days to initiate the fly car program and begin providing basic life support services locally based on proof of need. said Kaczor. Reach Ashley Onyon [email protected] Or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.