PRATTSVILLE — Amid the public health crisis wrought by COVID-19, the county’s fifth flycar joined the system Monday.
Adding the paramedic vehicle, which preps patients for transport prior to the arrival of an ambulance, was a hotly debated topic in the Greene County Legislature in 2019.
Catskill lawmakers Michael Bulich and Matthew Luvera opposed the budget amendment because they did not agree with the county footing the bill instead of the towns. Catskill has its own Advanced Life Support ambulance system.
Mountaintop officials, including Hunter Town Supervisor Daryl Legg and Legislator Larry Gardner, D-Hunter, argued that the mountaintop community was underserved and that lives on the mountain should be just as important as those in the valley towns.
The flycar was added to the budget prior to its approval in November.
“The most important asset is not the truck, but our highly trained and skilled paramedics led by Chief Steve Brucato,” Greene County EMS Paramedics President Mark Evans said in a statement. “Our medics are among the highest trained in the region; only the flight medics have more training.”
Evans also commended the paramedics for continuing to work and provide life-saving care to residents during the pandemic.
“Being a paramedic is stressful enough without the added potential exposure and precautions now mandated,” he said.
“Medic 8” is based at the Prattsville Firehouse through an agreement with the fire district.
“It’s a great add to the town, a service to the town, mountaintop and the county,” Prattsville Deputy Town Supervisor Greg Cross said. “It was a little bit of an uphill battle to get it. There were many people involved in making it happen.
“Daryl Legg was instrumental in not taking no for an answer. And of course we had to have help from the county administrator and county legislature to make it happen.”
Cross said he believes the new flycar will make medical care more accessible for the community.
“It’s a win for the mountaintop,” he said. “There’s not a lot of EMS assets up here. This bridges the gap from crisis to hospital care. We’re happy to have it.”
The flycar is a 2020 Chevrolet Tahoe, which cost $45,000 equipped with lights, siren and striping and another $50,000 in life-saving equipment. The truck carries a cardiac monitor/defibrillator, airway/intubation kit, IV kit, CPR machine and drug bag with nearly all the emergency drugs of an emergency room, according to Evans.
Cost estimates requested by the Legislature showed that the price of a new flycar would be around $403,000.
The flycar will be paid for in 2020 by a $60,000 contribution from Greene County Emergency Medical Services and a $50,000 State and Municipal Facilities Program Grant from the state Assembly. The remaining $303,203 will come from the county, according to the resolution passed in November.
“We are very pleased that the mountaintop towns worked together to request this truck and the Greene County Legislature agreed to the additional funding to place another medic truck in service,” Evans said. “Having this truck based in Prattsville helps to provide a vital medical asset in an underserved area.”
The truck will be staffed 24/7, 365 days per year and has a primary response area of Prattsville, Lexington and Ashland.
“Greene County EMS uses System Status Management, so as medic trucks are sent on calls, the other available trucks move position to be best located for additional calls,” Evans said. “This truck, as with any of the medic trucks, despite their home base position, could end up at any location in the county depending on the need.”
Legg and other mountaintop officials including Hunter Town Councilman Dolph Semenza, Lexington Town Supervisor John Berger and former Windham Town Supervisor Robert Pelham approached the Legislature in February 2019 about the issue, requesting that the current flycar on the mountain be relocated from Windham to Hunter and that a second vehicle be added.
The officials cited response times as the reason for their request.
The response time for the three vehicles stationed in the valley is nine minutes, Evans said at a March 2019 meeting, while the mountaintop vehicle’s response time is 14 minutes.
In August, Evans confirmed that a new location for Medic 9, the existing vehicle, had been found in the village of Hunter.
The building, at the corner of Bridge Street and Route 23A, required some renovating and Evans expects the flycar will be relocated by June 1, he said.