Officials tour other counties for solutions

Ambulance issues concern Fulton County officials

JOHNSTOWN — A contingent of Fulton County government officials are touring two other counties this week to continue to improve upon the county’s emergency medical services plan.

Fulton County has had to work with the state to put together a temporary plan when the county’s two most prominent ambulance services shut down earlier this year.

Johnstown Town Supervisor Jack Wilson, chairman of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors, said today that he and others visited Essex County on Monday and are scheduled to visit St. Lawrence County on Thursday.

He said those counties have experienced “similar” EMS crisis situations with ambulance units closing, and how to cope with those situations. He said the hope is to build on the temporary plan.

“We’ve got to get something that’s permanent and in place for us,” Wilson said.

For financial reasons, the Gloversville-based Ambulance Service of Fulton County shut down Feb. 8, and the Johnstown Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps shut down March 16. Emergency calls within the Fulton County area are now mostly being handled by the Greater Amsterdam Volunteer Area Ambulance Corps, with assistance from the Johnstown city ambulance, and Northampton, St. Johnsville and Mohawk ambulance service.

Wilson praised the job GAVAC has been doing since the ASFC and JAVAC shut down. But he has said Fulton County residents deserve a more permanent solution. County officials stress there has been no interruption of services since the two ambulance unit shutdowns.

The group of Fulton County officials who are touring outside counties this week have included Wilson; county Emergency Management Director Steven Santa Maria and his assistant, former Gloversville Fire Chief Beth Whitman-Putnam; county EMS Coordinator Mark Souza; and Northampton Supervisor James Groff, vice chairman of the Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee.

Additional people may be going Thursday to St. Lawrence County, Wilson said.

Wilson said fixing the ambulance plan is one of the most vital issues facing Fulton County at this time.

“We’re continuing on this ambulance situation and following through with what we’re doing,” he said.

He said a more comprehensive report on the counties’ visits is due to be given at the next Public Safety Committee meeting at 10 a.m. Monday at the County Office Building.

Santa Maria has said Fulton County continues to look at the legalities of its current ambulance operations, and how to improve upon them.

He said previously that when he received word from the state Department of Health about the ASFC shutdown, a plan was developed quickly — implemented one hour before the Ambulance Service of Fulton County shut its doors at 6 p.m. on Feb. 8. He said questions were immediately asked as to what was needed for resources to keep EMS solvent in Fulton County, the ease of dispatch of other ambulances, and concerns about response time.

Fulton County is also doing an update of the Fulton County Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan begun last year. The county earlier this year reappropriated $13,800 in state homeland security funds to complete the plan. The Board of Supervisors in 2017 authorized a $30,000 contract with Tetra-Tech Inc. to update that plan.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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