Fulton County continues to explore EMS options

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County is progressing in a fact-finding mode regarding county government potentially taking over all emergency medical services within the county.

“We continue discussions with the [state] Department of Health,” county Emergency Management Office Director Steven Santa Maria said Monday.

He said the county is still trying to determine what its responsibilities would be if it completely assumed all EMS services.

Fulton County government is trying to decide whether it is feasible to assume operation of all ambulance service in the county, a situation precipitated by closures earlier this year. The Gloversville-based Ambulance Service of Fulton County shut down Feb. 8. The Johnstown Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps shut down March 16.

Regular ambulance calls with advanced life support are now mostly being handled by the Greater Amsterdam Volunteer Area Ambulance Corps, with assistance from the Johnstown city ambulance, and other regional services.

Both the Gloversville-based ASFC and JAVAC closed their businesses earlier this year for financial reasons. But they have come back to some extent utilizing Empire Ambulance of Albany at the basic life support level only and for medical transports.

The single-ambulance Johnstown fire unit is looking at possibly buying a second ambulance in the future.

Fulton County is exploring whether to take over all of EMS in one big umbrella rather than a piecemeal approach to services, with several questionable financial situations.

Santa Maria said this week that the county has taken several steps already to firm up a more direct approach to EMS services. He noted the Board of Supervisors has a new full-time EMS coordinator position, filled by Mark Souza. The position, which used to be unpaid and part-time, was developed to deal partially with the volatile ambulance situation in the county.

Fulton County also continues to look at the legal aspects of a EMS takeover. That includes conferring with attorneys about a potential certificate of need, which Santa Maria said the county is already doing.

“Right now we’re continuing in the discussion mode,” Santa Maria said.

But the county official said Fulton County will eventually speak to its own attorney. The Board of Supervisors will decide whether a takeover of Fulton County ambulance service is in the best interests of the county.

Santa Maria said county government continues to work with the Fulton County EMS Council to firm up dates for a potential timeline.

Gloversville 4th Ward Supervisor Charles Potter in May publicly brought up the possibility of the county itself running future ambulance services. He said he wasn’t suggesting the county “get into the ambulance business.” But Potter said Fulton County “needs to take a bigger seat at the table” regarding EMS coverage, especially as 2020 county budget development nears.

More information on EMS issues impacting the county could be imparted at the next meeting of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee at 10 a.m. Monday at the County Office Building.

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