By Eric Tichy
RANDOLPH - More than three months into existence, the Randolph Regional EMS Corp. is growing.
The nonprofit ambulance service began charging for its services this year. The corporation covers all of Randolph and portions of the towns of Conewango and Napoli, and replaces the former Randolph Rescue Squad.
Officials last year cited an increase in operating costs for establishing the new system. Patients treated and transported via Randolph's ambulance are now billed.
"Things are going pretty well," said David Senn, Randolph EMS Corp. president. "We still don't have the billing completely set because it takes time working with Medicaid and Medicare."
Senn said the all-volunteer organization already has responded to 95 emergency calls this year. He hopes more volunteers join to keep up with the increased call volume.
The corporation currently has 16 members, which includes emergency medical technicians and drivers.
"We've had a few people submit applications to join," Senn said. "There are just some people who want to join, but don't want to be part of the fire department. When you're a firefighter there is a lot of stuff that you have to do, like training."
With the new billing system has come some confusion, although officials have held informational meetings with residents to answer questions.
"I think the biggest thing that's confusing people is that they don't realize they're probably covered," Senn said. "There are all of these ambulance provisions that cover these costs."
Paying for medical treatment and transportation has become standard operating procedure for many local fire departments.
Said Julius Leone, Chautauqua County fire coordinator, in December: "(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."
In Randolph, the EMS corporation is housed with the local fire department, although the two are considered separate.
Both departments had provided emergency care since 1966, but higher fuel costs and supplies forced officials to establish the nonprofit group.
Senn, meanwhile, expects the corporation to be fully functioning by the end of year. "I think we will get this down pat by then," he said. "We'll have a better understanding where we are financially."