GAVAC moves for permanent license for Fulton County

Ambulance service operating in county with an emergency certificate

FULTON COUNTY — The Greater Amsterdam Volunteer Ambulance Corps. is preparing to apply on March 21 for a permanent Certificate of Need to operate in Fulton County. 

GAVAC has been deploying five ambulances in Fulton County since Feb. 8 as part of a mutual aid agreement to cover the territory of the Ambulance Service of Fulton County after it abruptly announced it was shutting down because it didn’t have enough money to make its bi-weekly $70,000 payroll or pay for necessary insurance. The ASFC had been the largest ambulance service in the county. 

Steven Santa Maria, the Fulton County emergency management services coordinator, issued a news release Thursday stating the Emergency EMS Response Plan put in place after ASFC shut down had ceased, leaving GAVAC with “primary operating authority” in the former territory of the ASFC.

GAVAC was issued an emergency Certificate of Need (CON) by the state Department of Health on Feb. 14. CONs act as the license for an ambulance service, and they establish which ambulance service has the right to be called first in a given area. 

“In essence, everything will return to what it was prior to the ASFC going out of service, with GAVAC responding to the former territory primarily serviced by the ASFC,” Santa Maria stated in his release.

Santa Maria stated that there were  212 EMS calls for services between when the plan was implemented on Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. until 7 a.m. Wednesday. 

“No call for service went unanswered,” Santa Maria said. 

GAVAC Executive Director Thomas Pasquarelli said his agency has every intention of remaining in Fulton County permanently, although it remains to be seen how many ambulances can be viably deployed in the county.

“The reality is we aren’t going to be reimbursed for any of these calls for 30 days, so that question remains impossible to answer at this point,” he said. 

Concerns about the GAVAC’s ability to remain viable in Fulton County were raised when a dispute was revealed between GAVAC and the Johnstown Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps (JAVAC). Both agencies claim the right of “first refusal” for the inter-facility transfers at Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville. Inter-facility transfers involve moving patients between Nathan Littauer buildings, such as their nursing home. Ambulance services get paid for making the transfers, providing another source of revenue.

Santa Maria and GAVAC have asked the Adirondack-Appalachian Regional Medical Services Council to determine what the legal territory is for JAVAC to operate, and whether it’s legal for it to take Nathan Littauer transport calls. 

“They met and started the process of clarifying the territory for JAVAC,” Santa Maria said. “There is a process and it is just beginning.”

Pasquarelli said he doesn’t expect the council to make a ruling on JAVAC for at least several weeks. He said GAVAC’s emergency certificate of need from the state gives it the legal authority to handle Nathan Littauer transport calls, and has been taking some of them, but so has JAVAC. 

“[The hospital] should be using the ambulance service that is licensed for that area as the first call,” he said. He said the transfers should go to GAVAC, unless GAVAC doesn’t have an ambulance available. 

JAVAC officials did not respond to messages seeking comment Thursday. 

Pasquarelli said it remains to be seen whether GAVAC can afford to use five ambulances to handle 911 EMS calls in Fulton County without the revenue provided by performing transfer calls for Littauer.

“The plan that was set forth for JAVAC to have the transfers was only under the mutual aid system, for the simple fact that we had an ambulance company that ceased operations and nobody was expecting it, and no one single company by itself could initially handle all of that for a weekend. This all happened on a Friday night,” Pasquarelli  said. “Any system is viable, but it’s just a matter of how many ambulances you need to staff. Until we get the statistics, we don’t know.”

Meanwhile, the ASFC is still looking for a potential partner to enable it to reopen. The agency either needs a $200,000 cash infusion or a partner to operate under its CON.

Alan Mendelsohn, vice president of the ASFC Board of Directors, said the ASFC has not made a decision as to whether it will close permanently. 

Pasquarelli said GAVAC is now in talks with ASFC to potentially partner with it and take control of its ambulances, buildings and equipment. He said GAVAC is pursuing its own permanent CON to operate in Fulton County independently of any plan to operate in partnership with the ASFC. 

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News

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