LAKE GEORGE - Ambulances based in the town of Thurman will soon roll again.
The local government voted Jan. 24 to sign a contract with the local emergency squad. The pending agreement ends a year-long squabble between the town board and the the independent Thurman Emergency Medical Services Inc.
Up through this week, the town had not contracted for emergency response services with the squad, citing the agency's inability to provide Advanced Life Support expertise, shifting service costs, sporadic low response rate, uncertain finances, and a lack of cooperation from EMS officials.
The Thurman squad has not responded to calls since Jan. 1 because of the lack of town board support - Warrensburg EMS has been handling calls voluntarily.
But as of Monday, the conflict was history, based on a new agreement approved unanimously by the town board. The deal designates Thurman EMS as the contracted response squad for the town, as it has been in the past.
The agreement calls for Thurman EMS to provide Basic Life Support, with the understanding a local ambulance transporting a patient in critical condition will pick up an Advanced Life Support technician from the Warrensburg squad along the route to the hospital. Such an arrangement was routine for years until the squad had its ALS certification revoked last year due to manpower shortage.
The new pending contract calls for a six-month trial period to see if the arrangement works out, Town Supervisor Evelyn Wood said. The contract is for a sum of $50,000, with $12,500 payable in quarters, with the first installment to be paid in February.
The contract bears a performance guarantee to resolve lingering concerns of the board, Wood said. The contract calls for the squad to respond to 80 percent of its Basic Life Support calls in order for the contract to extend beyond its trial period, she said.
"The probationary period will make sure everything works out for both parties," Wood said. "In agreeing to this contract, we've let bygones be bygones."
The Thurman emergency squad members met Jan. 23 and ratified the agreement. The vote was nearly unanimous, Thurman EMS president Jim DeSourdy said.
"I'm very happy that we're signing, and looking forward to putting all the problems in the past and working in good relations with the town board," he said. "We are dedicated to helping the townspeople out."
The agreement also stipulates that the squad remain all-volunteer, and not charge for its services.
"I'm very optimistic at this point," Wood said. "Since I ran for office, I wanted to keep EMS services local all along. The board just wanted to make sure people are protected with adequate medical services, while we stay within the budget and keep it affordable for the taxpayers."
Warrensburg EMS president Steve Emerson said he wasn't at all disappointed his agency wasn't confirmed as the designated ambulance squad at an annual payment of $50,000.
"It's outstanding they were able to salvage their hometown squad," he said, referring to the talk circulating that Thurman EMS might disband.
"This means faster care for patients no matter what," Emerson added, noting Warrensburg EMT's will still be responding to most calls, but Thurman personnel will likely get on scene faster, administering vital Basic Life Support. DeSourdy added his squad will be actively working towards reinstating their Advanced Life Support certification.
Joyce Eddy said she and hundreds of other
Thurman residents will be happy to know the new agreement was reached. She noted a petition signed by 222 Thurman residents was recently submitted to the town board calling for the local squad to provide services. Many townspeople had worried about the extra time required - as much as 15 or 20 minutes - for Warrensburg squad members to respond to calls, she said, particularly in the remote areas of Thurman.
Eddy knows about how vital quick response is.
Her great-grandson Dakota Beadnell was buried alive about two years ago when a sandbank collapsed near his home. Eddy credited not only the family dog for alerting the family members and pawing at the site he was buried, but she also said the Thurman squad's quick response saved the boy's life.
"Dakota's alive today because of the services they provided, after getting there so quickly," she said of the Thurman volunteers.
She added that a lot of Thurman residents are elderly and don't drive, and they are susceptible to various medical crises.
"Without quick response and transportation to the hospital, the elderly might just lay there and die," she said.