“We need our communities help….”
By, Rebecca H. Weaver Hamm
President, A. E. Crandall Hook & Ladder Co.
The volunteers of A. E. Crandall Hook & Ladder Co. provide high-quality Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to our community 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at no charge to patients or their insurance companies. Our service is operated at the Advanced Life Support (ALS) level, which means that we have the equipment and personnel to care for patients who need certain medications, cardiac care, and other needs. We rely on contributed support from Alfred University, Alfred State College, the Alfred-Alfred Station Community Chest, the Village and Town of Alfred, the Towns of Hartsville and Ward, and individual donors.
The EMS Cost Recovery Act amends NYS General Municipal Law to permit volunteer fire departments bill for EMS services, should they choose to do so. The members of A. E. Crandall reaffirmed our status as a non-billing fire department. We do not wish to charge our neighbors for our volunteer services. A provision in the amended law, however, will negatively impact our ability to provide these services. Any non-billing volunteer fire department that requires an ALS intercept from another EMS agency must, under the law, pay that agency’s bill, which can range from $500-1500. The intercepting agency may no longer bill the patient directly. The non-billing volunteer fire department has no choice in the matter. We fear that some departments will be forced to ask ALS agencies transport patients to avoid the intercept bill, or may discontinue ambulance services altogether. This has already happened in our county.
Our department responds to 350-400 ambulance calls in an average year, roughly 25% of which meet ALS criteria. We are fortunate to have enough ALS personnel to be able to provide this level of care almost all the time, including on calls that meet the Basic Life Support (BLS) criteria. At this time, we have 17 active EMTs ranging in level from Basic to Paramedic supported by other volunteers who serve as drivers and support personnel. Becoming an EMT-B takes over 140 hours of coursework, while becoming an EMT-Paramedic takes over 1500 hours to complete. Our volunteers invest significant time achieving and maintaining these certifications, as well as training and responding to emergencies.
We provide our services to roughly 7,000 residents (during the school year) on contributions from our community. Contributions total $80,000-90,000 in a typical year, which allow us to pay for our ambulances (along with their insurance and maintenance), equipment, supplies, training, and upkeep on our building. We use ALS intercepts 1-3 times per year. In a worst-case scenario, 3 intercepts could cost us $4500, which is almost what we spent on supplies last year. We simply can’t afford spending 5% of our potential income on intercept fees when every aspect of care from fuel to nitrile gloves to equipment is increasing in price.
We need our community’s help – your help – to overcome the challenges presented by this new law. You can help us by:
- Writing to Gov. Kathy Hochul, asking her to amend paragraph C of GML section 209-B, subdivision 4 to allow ALS intercept agencies bill patients directly;
- Considering a donation to support our work;
- Becoming a member of A. E. Crandall if you live, work, or study in Alfred (or responding mutual aid if you are a member of another volunteer fire department); and
- Reaching out to your local volunteer fire department to ask how you can help them. This law will burden volunteer fire departments.
We are happy to provide letter templates to send to Gov. Hochul. The EMS Cost Recovery Act, having passed both the NYS Senate and Assembly and signed into law, can only be changed through the efforts of the Governor and her staff. We are not optimistic that the law can be changed, but we hope the collective voices of our many supporters can make a difference. If you would like to learn more about us or have questions, you can call and leave a message at 607-587-8880, email [email protected], or message us on Facebook or Instagram. Thank you for your support.