CROWN POINT - Changes are coming to emergency medical service in Crown Point.
Faced with a critical shortage of emergency medical technicians, the Crown Point Fire District held a public meeting recently to discuss its options.
The ambulance service, which is operated by the Crown Point Fire Department, now has two EMTs - one whose certification expires in February and another who has announced his plans to retire in 2012.
State regulations require all ambulances be staffed with an EMT.
"We are more than critical in our need for EMTs," Crown Point Supervisor Bethany Kosmider said. "We are facing closure of our ambulance service in Crown Point very soon."
Dave Hobbs, one of the department's EMTs, said more EMTs are needed - immediately.
"There are just two us and we can't be available all day, everyday day," Hobbs said. "The other EMT works and I'm 73 years old."
While help is needed immediately, it won't happen. It takes six months of training to become an EMT, if an interested person can find a class.
"We tried to have a class locally and had to cancel it," Hobbs said. "We only had 10 people interested and you need 12 for a class."
Classes are available in cities in the region, but few people are willing to make the trip twice a week for six months to become an EMT, Hobbs said.
Crown Point is facing a deadline along with a shortage. One EMT's certificate expires in February 2011 and he has been unable to find a class to renew it. Hobbs' certification expires in June 2012 and he plans on retiring.
"My EMT card expires in June 2012 and I'm not going to renew it," Hobbs said. "Calls take an emotional and physical toll on me. It's time for me to step aside."
Hobbs, who was honored as state Basic Life Support Provider of Year last year, has been an EMT 43 years.
There is a Crown Point student studying to become an EMT, but she won't be certified until late November, Hobbs said.
"People aren't knocking at the door asking to become EMTs," Hobbs said.
Crown Point will always have ambulance service, Hobbs said, but it will be radically different than it is now. Either the fire company will hire professional EMTs, which Newcomb already does, or it will contract with a professional ambulance service.
Kosmider is hopeful local EMT candidates will step forward and save the current volunteer service. She said the town can't afford professional EMTs and a professional service won't be able to provide services like the local fire company.
"If this happens, people will be served by CVPH (Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital) or Lamoille, who charge for their services, much of which is not covered by insurance and the wait time will be longer," Kosmider said. "It's not a good thing. The other option is a paid department and we just cannot afford this."