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'Holy cow! Wow!' News10NBC exposed list of ambulance closures

May 21, 2019 11:46 PM

NEW YORK (WHEC) -- Ambulance service in New York state is in critical condition. 

So many agencies closed last year that it's got the state's top Emergency Medical Services official saying there is concern about people getting care in time. 

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News10NBC has tracked this problem for two months. Now, we have reactions of shock when we show people the list of closures. 

Last year, more than 20 agencies closed. The state says we're on the same track this year. 

Almost all the closures are in small towns.

We want to take you to the state's EMS meeting two weeks ago. State EMS and Trauma Director Ryan Greenberg was asked to talk about the number of ambulance services that closed.  

"Unfortunately, when we look back and we look at 2018, we had almost 20 closures of EMS agencies throughout the state in 2018," Greenberg said. "And it looks like we're going in a similar fashion for this year."

When Greenberg said that, News10NBC asked the state Department of Health for the actual list of closures. 

We got the list Friday. Twenty-two EMS agencies closed in 2018. Six have closed this year.

Margay Blackman is the mayor of Brockport. The village just re-started its ambulance service two years after it suddenly closed.

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "This is a list of all the ambulance services that shut down..."

Margay Blackman, mayor of Brockport: "Oh wow. Holy cow."

Brean: "...and already this year."

Blackman: "Wow."

Brean: "When you see this list, what do you think?"

Blackman:  "You wonder if volunteer ambulance are going to make it."

News10NBC showed the list the new Brockport Ambulance chief. 

Lucas VanDervort, chief of Brockport Ambulance: "Well I think it's concerning. Everybody in this industry is in the same boat."

What Chief VanDervort means by that is ambulance companies don't get paid enough money to work. In April, we covered the closure of Avon Ambulance.

It ran out of money. 

We showed you how Le Roy Ambulance was in financial straits because patients keep the insurance checks that should go to the ambulance.

Brean: "So what's the difference this time? Why is this time going to work?"

Blackman: "The difference is they have, they approached COVA, Central Orleans County Ambulance. And they're in the process of merging with COVA so that, another volunteer ambulance service which serves a bigger area which is financially better off. And that's how they got back on their feet."

Merging works. That's what happened with Henrietta Ambulance. It's now called CHS and covers five towns. And some of the ambulance companies on the state's closure list merged with others. 

At the EMS meeting, Ryan Greenberg implored ambulance chiefs to warn him and the state at the first sign of trouble. 

"In many cases, what we come together to do and what we offer is a resource to be able to say here are your options, here's what you can do," Greenberg said. "But if we don't get notified until that last minute, if it's literally hours before, our hands are pretty tied."

In an effort to get more volunteers, New York state lowered the EMT certification age to 17. That happened in January. 

The state is also working on a new payment model for EMS.

Click here to learn more about the new model. 

Previous story: Critical condition: 28 ambulance companies close in NYS

Credits

Berkeley Brean

Copyright 2019 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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