Hoping it will help ease the pressure on local volunteers, Schoharie County supervisors agreed Friday to hire five fulltime EMTs.
The move comes after both the Cobleskill and Richmondville Rescue Squads have said they’re struggling; so is nearly every other volunteer squad, said Office of Emergency Services’ Mike Hartzel, who’s been working on a plan to keep everyone alive.
“It’s great,” Mr. Hartzel said after supervisors’ decision. “I’ve been trying to fix this with the lowest impact on taxpayers and this will let me fill in the holes.”
Neither supervisors nor Mr. Hartzel think the additional EMTs will be the final solution to a shortage of volunteers.
“It’s of critical importance,” said Cobleskill Supervisor and Finance Committee Chairman Leo McAllister, and a solution “until the end of the year when we can work toward something more permanent.”
Mr. Hartzel said he’ll use some of the additional EMTS to staff a fly car at the southern end of the county—16-hour days Monday through Saturday and eight hours on Sunday—and split the rest of the EMTS and hours between Cobleskill and Richmondville.
Like he did for MEVAC when that squad was facing the same critical situation a couple of years ago and OES came up with an EMT, Mr. Hartzel said he’ll meet with Cobleskill and Richmondville to set up a schedule for coverage depending on when volunteers are—and aren’t--available.
“We’re trying to help fix the volunteers squads, too,” he said, focusing on things like recruitment.
“If you only have to volunteer one night a week and you know beforehand what night that is, it makes the whole thing a lot easier,” he said.
Also to that end, OES has helped organize an Emergency Services Council which met for the first time Thursday.
The volunteer-paid EMT partnership has worked well for MEVAC, Mr. Hartzel said, and has also eased the pressure on nearby Scho-Wright, which is no longer getting Middleburgh’s calls.
“MEVAC has a 90 percent response rate now,” he said. “That’s great.”
With the exception of the Carlisle Rescue Squad, which is answering about 80 percent of its calls, most are at 45 percent.