The Stillwater Rescue Squad is on its way to going out of business, and the larger Malta Ambulance Corps is being positioned to step in to provide Stillwater’s emergency medical coverage.
The takeover has been discussed for some time, although a concrete proposal is emerging only now. Officials are calling it a merger of the two ambulance corps — the first merger of ambulance corps in Saratoga County, though it’s not likely to be the last.
“Stillwater is definitely considering this merger, and Malta Ambulance is a viable organization,” said Stillwater Town Supervisor Edward Kinowski.
He said he’s still researching what the town has to do in legal terms to transfer its contractual arrangement with the Stillwater Rescue Squad to another organization. Any move would require approval from the Stillwater Town Board.
The Stillwater squad, which originally relied on volunteers, has over the past decade contracted with the larger Malta ambulance organization for paid emergency medical staff at its ambulance station because of a local staffing shortage. Malta started out providing weekday coverage a decade ago but for about the past three years has provided all of Stillwater’s paid staffing in return for payments of $150 per call.
The Malta Town Board, meanwhile, is ready to vote on its support for the proposed merger as soon as Monday.
The Stillwater Rescue Squad station on Hudson Avenue would remain open under the plan, with the staffing and management provided by Malta.
“In essence, what you see would not change. It would be a change in paper,” said Saratoga County Emergency Medical Services Coordinator Mike MacEvoy.
He said there have been no other ambulance service mergers in the county, but he expects there may be more in the future as smaller companies like Stillwater’s struggle with a lack of volunteers and the costs of providing service.
“A lot of economies of scale will be gained by merging the two agencies,” said Michael Greenfield, the Malta corps’ CEO.
The Malta corps has agreed to accept the $127,000 per year the town of Stillwater has been paying the Stillwater Rescue Squad as its basic contract amount. The corps’ $380,000 contract with the town of Malta will not change.
“At the end of the day, it’s a win-win for everyone,” said Brian Taft, Malta Ambulance Corps director of operations. “There will be no up-front cost for either Malta or Stillwater.”
The Malta corps, with 62 employees, most of them part-time emergency medical technicians, has an annual budget of about $1 million. Most of its revenue comes from insurance reimbursements it receives for its ambulance calls.
The state Department of Health will have to approve Malta’s takeover of Stillwater Rescue Squad’s operating certificate before the plan can go into effect.
The town of Stillwater has been generating about 575 emergency medical calls per year, compared to the 1,922 calls generated last year in Malta.
Taft said the Malta corps also expects to be the primary ambulance service for the new urgent care center at Exit 12 being opened next week by Saratoga Hospital and Albany Medical Center.