Rescue squads face forced consolidation amid volunteer shortage

Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 4:19 PM EST
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - There are challenges ahead for ambulance groups in the north country. The head of the Ogdensburg squad outlined some of those challenges recently at a city council meeting.

It has vehicles and equipment, but one thing the Ogdensburg Rescue Squad could use more of is volunteers.

“It’s difficult. People, they’re volunteers for a reason. They have jobs during the day, they have jobs at night, they have families, they have many different things,” said Ken Gardner, chief, Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad.

The ranks have dropped from 65 to 25 in the past few years, according to Gardner.

But that’s not the only challenge. Gardner worries about other smaller rescue squads around Ogdensburg.

Next year, New York state wants squads to answer at least 85 percent of their calls. If they don’t, they may be forced to consolidate with other squads.

Gardner didn’t name the other squads but says there are as many as half a dozen around Ogdensburg that could find themselves in that situation.

“Departments making a certain amount of calls without mutual aiding them to another department, and if they don’t make a certain percentage, then New York state is talking about the possibility of consolidation of those different departments,” he said.

Collin McCarthy, who works for Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad full-time, hopes if consolidation ever happens, communities will pull together and provide the service everyone deserves.

“Basically, the system is just a little band-aided-together system of just different companies and municipalities and whatever they can put together,” he said.

Challenges lie ahead for rescue squads as they deal with a problem plaguing so many - a shortage of help.