RANDOLPH - Citing an increase in emergency medical calls, higher fuel costs and fewer volunteers, the Randolph rescue squad next year will begin charging for its ambulance services.
Starting Jan. 1, the newly formed nonprofit Randolph Regional EMS Corp. will take over emergency medical service calls for all of Randolph and portions of the towns of Conewango and Napoli.
Those transported and who receive care via Randolph's all-volunteer unit will be charged - a previously free service.
Starting Jan. 1, the newly formed nonprofit Randolph Regional EMS Corp. will take over emergency medical service calls for all of Randolph and portions of the towns of Conewango and Napoli. Users of the service will now be charged.
It was a decision members of the Cattaraugus County EMS group toiled with for years amid dwindling membership and higher costs of operation. In the end, however, the decision to go to a pay-for-care system was an easy one.
"It wasn't a hard push because everyone understands that the current way isn't sustainable with rising costs of doing business," said Ricky Lundberg Jr., Randolph EMS operations manager. "If we don't do something now I don't think there will be an existence down the road with our rising obligations."
Julius Leone, Chautauqua County director of emergency services, said charging for transportation and emergency services is largely dependent on location within the state and financial needs of the agency.
"It's growing because EMS is a big component of the fire department," Leone said Wednesday. "(Fire) companies are looking for ways to recoup some of their costs. People are looking into it, but there are a lot of pieces to it."
Lundberg said Randolph's EMS division, housed alongside its fire counterpart, has provided emergency care at no charge since its 1966 inception.
But as emergency calls continue to roll in, costs swell up. Not to mention recruitment and retainment efforts have become the "largest challenge" to the rescue squad.
"A volunteer emergency medical provider is required to attend a lengthy original certification course and then re-certify every three years," Lundberg said.
Soaring prices in diesel fuel and patient care supplies also have put a strain on fire departments across the state. So starting next year, all emergency services rendered in Randolph will result in a bill in the days following the call for medical care.
Pricing for services or transportation haven't formally been announced, though officials said they will be in line with current standards.
According to Lundberg, most health insurance plans contains a rider for ambulance transports - creating a "seamless transaction" between Randolph Regional EMS Corp. and a patient's health care provider.
Those without health insurance and in financial hardship may receive accommodations through the corporation's charity policy.
The 25-member rescue squad currently is funded through tax dollars and donations from patients and the community. Once the new system kicks in, Randolph's EMS unit will no longer receive taxpayer support; any revenue generated beyond operating costs will go toward the purchase of safety equipment.
The bottom line, Lundberg said, is to maintain quality care for the community with qualified emergency medical workers.
"The main goal of generating revenue from the services provided ... will be to support recruitment and retention programs for volunteer emergency medical providers," he said, noting incentives such as mileage reimbursements to volunteers.
In the meantime, the corporation is hoping to get the word out over the new system through media and social networking sites. "We're hoping people don't get a sticker shock," Lundberg said.