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EMS, town and county grapple with flycar

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Hunter Town Supervisor Daryl Legg addresses Greene County legislators about improving emergency services on the mountaintop on Feb. 6.
February 20, 2019 10:06 pm

CATSKILL — Greene County lawmakers continued to discuss the possibility of relocating the mountaintop’s flycar Tuesday night.

A flycar is a paramedic vehicle equipped to prep patients for transport prior to an ambulance’s arrival at a scene. Several mountaintop officials including Hunter Town Supervisor Daryl Legg addressed legislators on Feb. 11, asking them to move the flycar from Windham to either Hunter or Lexington, and to add a second flycar to the mountaintop.

Greene County Emergency Services Board of Directors President Mark Evans spoke on behalf of the board Tuesday as to why the mountaintop’s proposal had not been approved. The issue was first proposed to the EMS board in 2017.

“The EMS board has always presented budgets and plans to the legislature based on our mission, service, finances, needs and planning,” Evans said. “In other words, we have always presented a sound plan that is defendable. At this time, we have no plan to add a medic truck and no facts to support the addition of a truck. We do not have the call data for another truck. The only thing I can point to, to justify another truck is reducing response time.”

The response time for the three vehicles stationed in the valley is nine minutes, Evans said, while the mountaintop vehicle’s response time is 14 minutes.

If a valley flycar is responding to a mountaintop call, the time would be longer.

Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, reminded lawmakers that the response time Evans referred to does not include the time it takes to get the patient to the hospital.

The appeal by the mountaintop for relocation of one flycar and addition of a second is not fact-driven, Evans said.

“This appears to us to be based on emotion rather than call data, response times and factual information to back up the move or add another truck,” he said.

Legg agreed that the issue was emotional.

“In 2017 we were met with resistance,” Legg said. The mountaintop officials addressed the EMS board again in fall 2018, he said.

“Mr. Evans said, it’s not up to me, go to the legislature.”

Evans countered Legg’s statement.

“We advised Mr. Legg we would advocate for a truck to the legislative board,” Evans said.

Evans reviewed the mountaintop’s proposal for the legislators.

“Moving the flycar to Lexington makes no operational sense,” Evans said. “Hunter or Jewett makes sense; a majority of the calls are there.”

The EMS board has not been able to find a site to store the vehicle in those towns, Evans said.

Hunter had offered a garage at no charge, Legg said.

The location would not improve response time because it is in Haines Falls, Greene County EMS Chief of Operations Stephen Brucato said.

“We think the building in the village of Hunter at the corner of Bridge Street and 23A would be a good option,” Brucato said. EMS was unable to get permission to use the building, Brucato said.

Legg and Legislator Larry Gardner, D-Hunter, will talk to [Hunter Village] Mayor Alan Higgins about using the building, they said.

The cost of adding a second flycar would be $403,000, Evans said.

Additionally it would cost $200,000 to staff the vehicle 24/7 and $40,000 to purchase the medical equipment, Evans said.

This expense would be added to the county’s $119 million budget for the year.

“It would take 30 to 60 days to implement [the new vehicle],” Evans said.

Alternatively, the county could explore the option of equipping the Prattsville-Lexington area with an ambulance service, Evans said.

“Implementation would be about six months,” Evans said.

Evans did not have the cost estimates for the ambulance service.

Legislator Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, expressed reservations about this option.

“If we increase ALS for the mountain, there is an impact on all taxpayers, not just the mountaintop,” he said. “Those using the service should pay for the service.”

Legislator Harry Lennon, R-Cairo, was concerned about the flycar’s location in Windham because Windham’s ambulance is equipped with Advanced Life Support.

“Is there a duplication of services?” Lennon asked.

“The medics for Windham are not trained to the level ours are,” Evans said. “It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.”

Legg argued that it was in the county’s best interest to add a flycar.

“We had seven calls that were missed by EMS last year,” he said. “Put another car on. It will help the whole county, not just the mountaintop. It will improve the health and safety of the people paying your salary.”

Brucato and Evans spoke to the success of the program.

“We have 3,000 calls a year,” Brucato said. “That’s a 99.9 percent response rate.”

Greene County EMS has won regional awards for its system, Evans said.

“We’re not arguing that,” Lennon said. “We have an outstanding paramedic service.”

Gardner spoke in favor of improving EMS services in his district.

“It is beyond question the southwest corner of the county is underserved,” Gardner said. “The current system isn’t adequate. It is an essential service.”

The legislators asked the EMS board to hold a meeting with mountaintop officials to further develop a plan to address the issue. No date for the meeting was scheduled.