THURMAN - As of Jan. 1, the local ambulance squad has stopped responding to emergency calls after their contract wasn't renewed by the town board, and the agency's Warrensburg counterparts have taken over their emergency calls. This situation has ignited controversy over whether a local squad should be providing the service.
Some Thurman residents have been expressing concern that the local Thurman Emergency Medical Services agency could offer faster vital services than ambulances stationed in Warrensburg, about six miles away from Athol, Thurman's largest hamlet.
They also have said that the town should be supporting its own squad, rather than contracting with an agency based out-of-town. But Thurman's leaders have said they haven't contracted with the Thurman squad because it lost its Advanced Life Support Certification last year, and that taxpayers were unwilling to bankroll paid staffing, which is a necessity for ALS certification in the face of declining availability of qualified, trained volunteers.
The Thurman squad has not responded to alerts since Jan. 1, after they were notified by the state their Workmen's Compensation Insurance had expired.
Thurman squad President Jim Desourdy said Sunday that squad officials decided their members shouldn't be responding if they didn't have such coverage, which was traditionally paid for by the town.
Town Supervisor Evelyn Wood said that the town board had decided not to pay for the Workmen's Compensation for the squad, on the advice of the town attorney, because the town didn't have a service contract with the group.
Desourdy said that the Warrensburg Emergency Medical Services ambulances weren't able to reach the far reaches of Thurman as fast as his hometown squad could, and delays of 15 or 20 minutes could mean the potential loss of life in heart attacks and other ailments. Proponents of utilizing the Warrensburg squad, however, have argued that the agency has for decades responded without consequential delay, and they already maintain paid staffing fully trained and certified for ALS.
Wood said Sunday that Thurman townspeople have spoken out against bankrolling local paid staffing, and she and he board have been wary of the Thurman squad's shifting proposals and funding requests. Desourdy countered the offers were merely modified to meet the public's and board's changing expectations.
However, on Sunday a potential solution gained traction.
Both Wood and Desourdy said they'd be interested in an arrangement proposed by some town residents - that the Thurman squad members could handle initial emergency response, pick up and stabilize patients with basic life support treatment, carry them into Warrensburg, where they'd pick up a certified ALS technician, if needed, on the way to Glens Falls Hospital.
Such a response arrangement, Desourdy said, would keep costs low while providing the fastest response times, which are critical in many urgent medical situations.
Both Desourdy and Wood said Sunday they'd like to resolve the outstanding funding and certification issues, and resume the local emergency response service.
The two said they'd like to meet to solve the obstacles to signing a contract. Wood said she and the board would likely be agreeable to a deal if the Thurman squad could provide service at a reasonable rate with reliability.
"Public safety is a huge concern for us - we want to make sure we are taking the best care of our citizens as we can, but at the same time, we must be fiscally responsible," the new supervisor said. "I campaigned on keeping emergency services local, and I certainly do want to do that if we can - but we have to be confident going into it that they'll be providing the services we contract for.'