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Fulton County mulling takeover of ambulance territory

Fulton County mulling takeover of ambulance territory

Fulton County mulling takeover of ambulance territory
Photographer: Shutterstock

FULTON COUNTY -- Fulton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Wilson plans to meet with the state Department of Health Tuesday to discuss creation of a countywide ambulance service. 

On Friday, the Ambulance Service of Fulton County shut down, laying off 55 employees when the nonprofit determined it did not have enough money to make its bi-weekly $70,000 payroll, or pay $35,000 for workers compensation insurance and $4,500 for ambulance insurance, all of which were due Friday.

The Fulton County Emergency Medical Services Council on Friday stitched together a 72-hour plan for other ambulance services to provide coverage to the areas most served by the suddenly defunct ambulance service. That plan included the Greater Amsterdam Volunteer Ambulance Corps putting five ambulance rigs into operation for Fulton County, including two stationed in Gloversville. Also involved in the plan are the Johnstown Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps., the Johnstown City Fire Department Ambulance Service, the Mohawk Valley Ambulance Corps and the St Johnsville Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Wilson, who is the Johnstown supervisor, said the patchwork of ambulance services successfully fielded 42 calls over the weekend. He said uncertainty over the county's ambulance service needs to be fixed as soon as possible. 

"We want to know what's going on," Wilson said. "In Fulton County, every three or four months, there's an ambulance service that's in trouble for one reason or another."

Fulton County previously had problems with ASFC not paying about $13,000 for fuel obtained from a county fuel depot on Route 29. 

On Friday, Alan Mendelsohn, vice president of the ASFC board of directors, said Fulton County could solve his agency's financial problems by creating a taxing district.

"If they charged every household in Fulton County $4 a year, we'd be solvent," Mendelsohn said.

There was little interest in creating the taxing district at Monday's Board of Supervisors meeting, during which Ephratah Supervisor Todd Bradt asked if he should make a motion for the board to consider a resolution to petition the state for a Certificate of Need to create a new countywide ambulance service. 

Wilson told Bradt that was an option he will explore with state officials Tuesday.  

"We need to take charge of our destiny," he said. "We've got to go about this in a methodical way. If we have the Certificate of Need, and it's in Fulton County's pocket, we will have the authority to say who's going to do what where."

If Fulton County obtains a Certificate of Need, it would be able to control which ambulance service can legally fulfill that need.  

County Administrator Jon Stead said what the county could have used was a heads up that the Ambulance Service of Fulton County was about to shut down. He said Steven Santa Maria, the Fulton County Emergency Management Services Coordinator, wasn't told about the looming shutdown until Friday morning and was forced to scramble to create a coverage plan. 

"If we'd had even a week's notice, that would have made a difference," Stead said.  

Wilson praised Santa Maria for putting in more than 30 hours of work over the weekend to help shore up the emergency coverage.  

Gloversville Supervisors Marie Born (1st Ward), Frank Lauria Jr. (2nd Ward), Charles Potter (4th Ward) and Greg Young (5th Ward) all said the county must resolve the ambulance service issue within the next month.

Lauria said he doesn't want to have to create a taxing district to bail out ASFC, but if necessary, he would consider it. He said another option could be a different ambulance service taking over its operations. 

Potter said there could be advantages to the county operating its own service, where it could provide financial oversight and control. 

A consensus of board supervisors expressed dismay and concern over possible mismanagement at ASFC and a lack of financial transparency from the service's leaders.

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