EMS providers from around the region are looking to a group of state lawmakers known as the Mohawk Valley Nine for help. EMS members and the legislators met at Herkimer College Tuesday to have a roundtable discussion about industry issues and strategies for solutions.
Oswego EMS Coordinator Renee Fox says their problems start at the basic level of salary.
"It’s tough. People who are basic EMT’s would make more money going to Dunkin Donuts, or Stewart’s to serve hot dogs and coffee than they do staffing a rig and potentially saving someone’s life," she said.
One of the major problems is getting paid for their services. Utica Fire Department's Philip Taurisano explained what they’re asking for:
"Legislation to allow us to bill the insurance company. Hey we did treat your patient. We did do this. We talked about control. The doctors said they were ok not going to the hospital, but we provided the service. We just didn’t bring them to the hospital. We should be able to recover some of that money," he said.
Medicaid reimbursements are well below adequate, making it difficult for the companies to even operate, but couple that with another problem coming from Mohawk Valley Ambulance Corps. Greg Eisenhut, who said, "almost every student at this college that we end up transporting, we get nothing. Their parents are somewhere else. They could be downstate. We get nothing."
It’s not just college students. Recovering any money from patients is a difficulty they’re all facing, but David Butler from the United New York Ambulance Network says their problems don’t stop there.
"We have ambulances minimum of 2 hours waiting at Upstate to offload their patient. That takes resources out of that community," said Butler.
Low wages, Medicaid reimbursements, patient’s refusal to pay, long wait times at hospitals, and a system that has a hard time identifying fraud. Kevin Revere is the Director Oneida County Emergency Services. He talked about the number of emergency calls that aren't emergencies.
"The fire service, let’s just say they’re intergraded, they’re bailing on these medical calls too. We’ve got one after another in our County that, they’re going to the serious ones. They’re not going to… probably, some of them, aren’t going to any A-calls. They’re just…they’re not an emergency," he said.
Madison County EMS Coordinator John Barattini identifies the core of the problem.
"The question is are they abusing the system, or are they genuinely ill? We don’t have that authority to make that determination. (But we know they’re abusers) We know they’re abusers," he said.
While these EMS providers go back to work with financial hardships, they’re hoping the Mohawk Valley Nine has their backs in Albany.
The Mohawk Valley Nine is comprised of delegation co-chairs Sen. James L. Seward, Oneonta; Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, Utica; Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, Rome; Sen. Rachel May, Syracuse; Sen. Jim Tedisco, Glenville; Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush, Black River; Assemblyman Brian Miller, New Hartford; Assemblyman John Salka, Brookfield; and Assemblyman Robert Smullen, Meco.