Cost of EMS prison calls raises questions

File Photo The Greene Correctional Facility and the Coxsackie Correctional Facility made a combined 21 calls to emergency medical services in May.

COXSACKIE — Greene County legislators are raising concerns regarding the costs of responding to emergency medical calls from the state prisons in Coxsackie.

The Town of Coxsackie made 958 calls to Greene County Emergency Medical Services in 2021.

During a presentation by Greene Emergency Medical Services President Mark Evans during the Greene County Legislature’s Health Services Committee meeting on June 1, Greene County Legislator Daryl Legg, D-Hunter, asked Evans how many of the 958 calls to EMS last year came from Greene Correctional Facility and the Coxsackie Correctional Facility.

Evans said the prisons and the EmUrgentCare facility accounted for nearly 35% of Coxsackie’s emergency calls in the most recent statistics he had seen.

“Most of the time when Coxsackie gets dispatched to those three places, we’re going,” Evans said. “It’s very rare that they dispatch just the ambulance to one of those three.”

Greene County Legislator Harry Lennon, D-Cairo, expressed concern during the meeting about the fees the county receives from the state to respond to an emergency call at the prisons.

“On the scanner you hear it all the time: ‘Coxsackie ambulance to Greene Correctional,’” Lennon said. “A lot of times Coxsackie is out of service so Greenville will come over and handle it, or Durham. It just seems like a lot of calls to Coxsackie Correctional and we’re not getting reimbursed from the state for any of these services.”

Legg then asked about the medical services that the state prisons in Coxsackie can provide.

“Don’t they have vehicles in there that can transport to a medical facility?” Legg said. “So why do they call and take an ambulance out of service?”

Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said it could be a shortage of corrections officers at the prisons that leads the prison to call outside EMS.

Later during the meeting, Greene County Emergency Services Deputy Director Randy Ormerod said 15 EMS calls came from Greene Correctional Facility in May, while Coxsackie Correctional Facility made six calls last month.

Evans said during the meeting that the fee that the county receives from the state to respond to a prison call does not fully cover the cost of the trip to and from the hospital, while the ambulance that responds is then taken out of service for hours at a time.

“We’ve expressed the issue previously to DOCCS (New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision),” Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said. “They pay a fee. The full-size ambulance is a $200,000 expense, plus the two paramedics inside. With the drive time up there, now that machine is out of service while we hike someone to a hospital and back. Sometimes that can take three hours that the vehicle is now out of service. But the calls for service can keep coming in. That’s why cars are constantly moving, to keep that response time as low as possible.”

Groden said the county will raise the matter with the state and the county’s state representatives.

“We can go back to DOCCS and they’ll say to go to the state because the state approves our budget,” he said. “So I certainly will reach out to both (Assemblyman) Chris Tague and (State Senator) Michelle Hinchey. Many times just making them aware of a problem gets them the muscle to make change. That’s what we’ll try to do.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

(2) comments

Chris B

Could the words “prison” and “safe” be any more antithetical in nature? Maybe the prisons should have their own EMTs on staff, on location.

jdh

Seems like the inmates are unsafe there. Perhaps they should have more medical professionals onsite.

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