NYS passes law to create 12-person rural ambulance task force

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CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. (WROC) — News 8 has been reporting on the many challenges ambulance providers are facing throughout this pandemic. Staffing shortages, and an overflow in calls, are a few to name.

A new state law plans to address these head-on, and it’s specific to rural areas.

Matthew Sproul, Chief for Canandaigua Emergency Squad, says the job is definitely slower than what you’ll see in more urban agencies, but over the past ten years – calls have jumped from around 4500 a year – to 7000 a year.

“We’ve done well to try to get as many ambulances out the door,” he said. “The hard part is with the calls going up.” Sproul says in pre-pandemic times there could be around 7-8 calls a day. Now they’re seeing up to 31 in a 24 hour period.

And the pandemic, making these problems worse.

“Many are due to the pandemic and COVID.  It is real, it is here.  Some it affects some it does not, but it is deadly for many, and causing significant call volume increases due to difficulty breathing, weakness, and becoming worse along with the stress of the pandemic issues as well, which cause anything from blood pressure problems, strokes, to heart attacks due to many factors, but stress increases the risk as well,” said Sproul.

In addition to more calls, staffing shortages have grown worse over time, and recruiting isn’t easy.

That’s where the new law comes into play.

Lawmakers Senator Pam Helming co-sponsored the bill, and has been conversing with several rural agencies across the state on how improvements can be made. The law will create a 12-person task force, to “evaluate the unique challenges faced by ambulance service providers in rural areas and make recommendations for improvements to support public health and safety.”

“I’m hoping they take a good look and truly mark us as an essential service once and for all, and we stay an essential service,” he said.

Sproul says it hasn’t felt that way throughout the pandemic.

He’d like to see more help from the state when it comes to reimbursements – for equipment, Medicare and Medicaid.

“We can all understand the cost of everything has gone up substantially in this time especially in a pandemic,” he said. “Reimbursement for services has not increased within the last 10-15 years,” he said.

Sproul says while some rural agencies have closed down in the past year or so, they’re fortunate to be in a good position for now.

But a little extra help will go along way.

That includes help from the public.

“If you have ability to help, volunteer, whether in driving capacity, or learn how to be an EMT or higher, we would love to have you as part of the team. It is an amazing moment when you are actually helping those in need.”

The task force is made up of members within the state’s Bureau of Emergency Medical Services.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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