Alstar Working Closely With County On Fly-Car System
In creating a blended emergency response through the addition of fly-cars, Alstar EMS and county officials are working closely to ensure the system works for all services.
County officials are beginning the work to get a fly-car system operational after funds were included in the 2017 budget for three vehicles and personnel. The hope is to have the system up and running by the first quarter of 2017 to support commercial and volunteer services get to emergency calls.
David Thomas, executive director for Alstar EMS, said the need for fly-cars is there for remote areas of the county like Clymer where it’s difficult to respond and deliver advanced life support swiftly. Thomas said getting to the patient and taking care of their needs is the No. 1. priority for all emergency care providers.
“From that perspective with what the county is trying to do, it’s admirable,” Thomas said. “That’s why we’ve been trying to work intimately with the county on this. It’s important to not take and strain one system to service the other. It needs to work with the entire county between paid and unpaid service.”
Alstar began service in the county 36 years ago and today has approximately 140 part- and full-time employees. Thomas said many employees– 60-70 percent — are volunteers for various EMS cores around the county.
Thomas said he’s been with Alstar for 18 years and has witnessed a rise in the volume of calls. An older demographic and “frequent flyers” are attributable to the increase, he said.
“Everybody knows in the EMS field that there’s overutilization by certain sectors. We transport a lot more people because they don’t have the wherewithal to get to a local hospital. In many cases on 9-1-1 calls, they need the transport more than the care we provide. This is a nationwide epidemic.”
On an average day, Thomas said they transport anywhere from 12-25 patients to larger markets such as Buffalo, Rochester, Erie, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Thomas said those trips are necessary because the larger markets have the specialized care patients need that isn’t available locally, depending on the circumstance.
Between the transports they make and 9-1-1 responses, Thomas said it can be stressful at times. Alstar primarily operates in Jamestown and the Dunkirk-Fredonia markets. Recently, Thomas said they had to respond to a call in Onoville — a 30-minute ride they had to make due to a shortage of providers.
“When I started with the organization, we primarily operated within about a 5-mile radius of our core areas,” he said.
Thomas said Alstar needs to work in a symbiotic relationship with the county to ensure the system works for all sides. If the county’s fly-cars are positioned properly, Thomas said they’re going to be able to get to a location and provide the advanced life support that’s needed until a transport shows up. Thomas said Alstar uses fly-cars, but they’re to a point where they’ll respond with a ambulance since most people need care and transport.
“The county being in rural areas that we can’t reach, that’s important to the patient,” he said. “They can provide that immediate care that’s needed until Alstar or an agency can respond with a transport vehicle. That’s what we want to be a part of with the county. It’s about the patient and taking care of them.”