While praising local volunteers for their dedication and tenacity, Warren County Emergency Services Director Brian LaFlure LaFlure warns in March that Thurman Emergency Medical Services, a squad with about 80-100 calls per year, could not raise the funds needed to keep ALS-certified staff on duty to respond at any hour. He said that squads need to have a minimum of 600 calls per year to stay afloat without substantial financial support. This last week, Thurman EMS sent a letter to county emergency officials declaring that it is off-line, not to be dispatched, and its ambulance was out of service.
The embattled Thurman Emergency Medical Services is now no longer responding to emergency calls, according to county officials.
Warren County Emergency Services Director Brian LaFlure said Wednesday Nov. 27 that county emergency officials received a letter from Thurman squad President Jean Coulard declaring that the squad was off-line, not to be dispatched, and its ambulance was out of service.
Efforts to reach Warren County EMS Coordinator Micki Guy were unsuccessful — LaFlure said she was out-of-town.
Phone calls to Coulard weren’t answered. A message was left at the home of Thurman squad captain Lorrie Smith, as well as the workplace of county emergency dispatch coordinator Larry Jeffords. As of mid-afternoon Wednesday, these calls weren’t answered.
But Warrensburg Emergency Squad Operations Director Steve Emerson, on duty Wednesday at the Warrensburg squad headquarters, answered questions regarding ambulance coverage in Thurman.
Warrensburg has been dispatched on emergency medical calls since January, when their contract with the town of Thurman commenced. He said that his agency was responding to three to five calls per month recently, as specified in their contract.
The Thurman Town Board chose to contract with the Warrensburg squad beginning in 2013 rather than Thurman EMS because of the Thurman squad’s persistent financial troubles and their loss of Advanced Life Support certification. Despite recurring promises from Thurman squad officials that their members would receive ALS training and get certified, it wasn’t accomplished over the prior two years.
LaFlure and other regional emergency officials have said that the Thurman squad can’t pay for qualified round-the-clock personnel with merely 80 or so calls per year. The regional emergency officials have also expressed concerns of whether the Thurman squad can maintain its mandated medical certification. It was unclear this week whether the squad indeed has a certified medical director backing its operation.
Thurman Board members have repeatedly urged that the Thurman squad, with its dedicated volunteers, merge or partner with the Warrensburg squad, but negotiations to do so broke down. Town officials have said that a combined squad would offer substantial benefits to residents.
“A merger or partnership between the two squads would have been ideal to meet the needs of town citizens,” Wood said Nov. 27.
The town of Thurman’s multi-year contract paid the Warrensburg squad $30,000 for EMS coverage in 2013, and this sum increases to $50,000 in 2014.
Emerson said Wednesday that Thurman being officially offline doesn’t change any aspect of his agency’s operation. He said that the Thurman squad had been recently responding to about one-third of the calls in Thurman — incidences that his agency had also responded to.
While some Thurman citizens have wondered whether the Thurman squad’s closure would delay treatment, Emerson cited an incident last Saturday on Mountain Road in which Warrensburg’s ambulance crews were busy, but a Thurman resident who’s an EMT with Warrensburg EMS got to the scene quickly as a First Responder, initiating treatment to the patient while a Johnsburg EMS ambulance was enroute.
Supervisor Wood said that this and other situations have demonstrated the value of a consolidation of the squads, to provide the most expert, advanced medical service and the quickest response.
“I would hope that the squad would explore this option of partnership or consolidation. In today’s world, it’s all about working together,” she said. “We’re all working toward a common goal, the health and safety of our citizens.”