Program begins on September 25 with initial coverage in Aurora, Boston, Colden, Collins, Eden, Holland, North Collins and Wales
ERIE COUNTY, NY – Erie County officials joined with local municipal leaders and fire department representatives on September 21 to announce the start of a county-run ambulance service.
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein and Deputy Commissioner of Health for Emergency Medical Services Gregory Gill, outlined the scope of this new program and presented newly acquired ambulance equipment in front of Colden Fire Company.
“In consultation with the first responder community and healthcare systems, we saw that Erie County could step in and fill in gaps that address transit time and the burdens on our local EMTs and paramedics,” said Poloncarz. “I thank the health department for designing this innovative program. It takes into account our community’s unique needs, and incorporates the valuable resources that already exist among our local volunteers and ambulance services.”
“Quality, responsive pre-hospital medical care is an important step to making sure people who suffer from a serious injury or acute illness attain the best outcomes possible,” said Dr. Burstein. “This service is a safety net for critical emergency response, especially during peak call volume hours and when special events exhaust local EMS resources. And starting Monday morning, this team will stand ready to assist.”
Erie County officials also introduced the program’s team – a director (who is also a paramedic), six paramedics and two advanced emergency medical technicians (AEMTs), with additional hiring planned. These employees completed two intensive weeks of training and skills assessment in addition to their existing certifications and coursework.
The Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) acquired two ambulances and two fly cars so far, and three more ambulances are on order. These vehicles, which will be equipped with GPS locators for precise location awareness, will be based at Colden Fire Company initially, with more stations planned as more equipment becomes available.
“These are centrally located spots within our initial coverage area, and we thank Colden Fire Company for providing the space and helping us get this program off the ground quickly,” said Deputy Commissioner Gregory Gill. Towns included in the current coverage area include Aurora, Boston, Colden, Collins, Eden, Holland, North Collins and Wales. “Our long-term plans will include constructing a Southtowns building designed as a base for our ambulance operations and a state-of-the-art EMS training facility.”
County ambulances are stocked with Stryker self-loading stretchers, a more comfortable option for patients that reduces the risk of injury for patients and crews during transport. Ambulances are also supplied with LifePak monitors that register heart rate, blood pressure, cardiac activity and blood oxygen levels. With potentially long travel times in mind, the County also invested in state-of-the-art LUCAS devices, which perform external chest compressions and make CPR more effective.
9-1-1 services will handle dispatch for these new county resources. 9-1-1 processes all emergency calls and identifies the call location; it then notifies the appropriate agency that covers that area. When coverage is unavailable, 9-1-1 notifies mutual aid companies, and if there is still no coverage or if additional responders are needed, 9-1-1 will reach out for a county ambulance. The county ambulance service will not be available for nursing home resident transports or other non-emergent calls.
“Getting our paramedics and EMTs responding to emergency calls is just the beginning,” said Gill, who is also a paramedic and volunteer firefighter. As announced earlier this year, a nurse navigator program and Paramedic Training Academy are in development. As the program progresses, ECDOH hopes to partner with the Erie County Sheriff’s Office as a substation for special services. ECDOH is also exploring a community paramedicine program, with ambulance crews in the community to support special events and education outreach.