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Ambulance Service of Fulton County suspending operations

February 08, 2019 11:12 PM

The biggest ambulance company in Fulton County is suspending service -- shutting down after more than 50 years in operation.

The Ambulance Service of Fulton County said it has run out of money. All 60 employees are now out of a job.

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“Through a confluence of events, our cash flow prevented us from making payroll, workmen’s comp and vehicle insurance that were all due today,” said Alan Mendelsohn, the Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Ambulance Service of Fulton County.”

Mendelsohn said their employees will only get a portion of their paychecks this week. They hope to be able to pay the balance of their payroll "in the near future." He said the lack of cash flow is two parts. The first, a decline in emergency service calls. He said in 2017 they got about 8,500 calls. Now they’re getting around 7,400. The second reason is that a large percentage of those calls are for people who have Medicaid.

“We lose money on every Medicaid call,” said Mendelsohn. “Every time one of these rigs goes out the door it costs us $550. In Fulton County we’re reimbursed $220.”

The Gloversville-based ambulance company is not alone. This is a problem that Karen Tararache uncovered in November. New York State doesn't consider emergency medical service an essential service. So it doesn't make state aid available.

“For some reason in New York, EMS is not considered essential until you need to call one,” expressed Mendelsohn. “Now we closed the door temporarily.”

We reached out to the state Friday to ask about funding, they said Friday they were just focused on creating a short term plan to respond to 911 calls. While Mendelsohn said he’s concerned about response times, the county is confident in its plan.

“We really got caught off guard and started immediately assembling the troops,” said Director of Emergency Management in Fulton County Steve Santa Maria.

Santa Maria several EMS agencies, like the Great Amsterdam Volunteer Ambulance Corps. and Johnstown Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps., have stepped up to create a short term plan and answer calls. They’ve broken the county down into fire districts.

“We’ve established a response plan that any area in our county, we have a first, second and third ambulance service assigned to each specific area,” explained Santa Maria. “We broke them down by fire districts, it was the easiest and most efficient way to do it.”

Santa Maria said residents shouldn't be concerned about response times.

“People may even see a little quicker response because we don’t have to follow the territories right at this moment,” explained Santa Maria.

The health department also said the different EMS services helping out have added units and staff to help with the increase in calls.

Santa Maria said this is a short term plan and they will be working to create a long term plan in the next few days.

As for the Ambulance Service of Fulton County, they hope the closure is just temporary and they can work to get the funding to re-open. Mendelsohn said he had reached out to New York State Senator Jim Tedisco. He released the following statement regarding the company’s closure:

“Keeping ambulance services going for Fulton County residents is a major public safety issue. We’ve been in touch with the Fulton County Board of Supervisors who are crafting a plan for county-wide ambulance service and offered our help in any way we can to cut through the state bureaucracy and get that up and running as soon as possible.”

Credits

WNYT Staff

Copyright 2019 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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