EMT Shortage Is A Growing Crisis In County With No End In Sight

Yet another rural fire department is facing a difficult choice regarding how it handles EMS coverage.

This time, it’s Bemus Point, whose fire chief recently approached Village Board members to discuss options to provide EMS services as the department’s roster of EMTs dwindles.

One of the chief’s recommended courses of action included the merging with the county’s EMS system, which several other volunteer fire departments have already done. Other courses of action included continuing as is or merging ambulance service with another local fire department.

“We’re facing serious staffing issues, especially with EMTs,” said Randy Apperson, Bemus Point Volunteer Fire Department chief. “Our last EMT resigned and the other one we have on staff is also an EMT with the county.”

As we’ve noted in the past, Chautauqua County bought small fire departments some time with the creation of the fly car system. While that system has struggled to break even financially, it’s important to remember the situation that prompted creation of the fly car system – dwindling volunteer fire department membership, especially when it came to the number of emergency medical technicians in rural fire departments. The fly car system backed by county taxpayers still relied on volunteer firefighters and EMTs as a vital part of the public safety infrastructure, because four fly cars isn’t enough to provide coverage for the entire county.

But as the years go on, lack of interest, inability to leave one’s job for long periods of time, the cost and length of training required to be an EMT and the lure of paid ambulance companies have combined to make life even more difficult for volunteer fire departments than it was 10 years ago.

Three rural fire departments in the Mayville area are merging. Clymer has been on the record as needing more EMTs. Now Bemus Point is looking at options to provide EMS.

These aren’t isolated instances. If these talks haven’t happened in your area yet, it’s only a matter of time. The old model of volunteer EMS services is dying. Now, it’s time to create a new model.


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