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North Country ambulance squads in need of support as FEMA supply is on the way

Published: Jan. 2, 2022 at 5:30 PM EST
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GOUVERNEUR, New York (WWNY) - “The best answer is it’s a state of crisis.”

Those words from Director Mark Devers of the Gouverneur Rescue Squad.

He says the squad is the busiest it’s ever been - more than 300 calls above an average busy year

Because bed capacities are high at local hospitals, it is causing the hospitals to go on diversion more frequently. Meaning longer trips for north country ambulances to get a patient the care they need.

“In a typical year, we’d go to Rochester, Albany maybe two or three times. You know, we are doing that multiple times a week right now,” said Devers.

And Devers says that causes problems locally because that vehicle is out of service longer, leaving a fewer supply of ambulances for calls in our region.

Governor Kathy Hochul heard some of these concerns in a trip to the north country last week.

So, she’s decided to send some ambulance assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, trying to alleviate some of the burden local squads have been dealing with throughout the pandemic.

But, providers will tell you it’s just a band-aid.

“How long are they here? How long is the band-aid going to be on? Because this is greater than just COVID,” said Lance Ronas, CEO of the Indian River Ambulance Service.

Ronas says the problems they’re facing are hurting recruitment, and volunteer squads are having a tough time getting new faces in the door.

“They know if they decide to make this a career, it’s a poor paying career. Two, the morale and the fatigue, it is really hard to get somebody and say ‘hey, you want to just come and volunteer at Indian River,’” said Ronas.

In speaking with local leaders on Sunday, it’s still unclear how many FEMA ambulances would be stationed in the North Country and when they would be arriving.

It’s just a small solution to a much bigger problem.

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