There’s a shortage of emergency services volunteers in towns and villages throughout the North Country.. In Lake Placid, this issue became evident over the weekend as Mayor Craig Randal moved one of the Ambulances from it’s regular home at the ambulance garage to the fire station.. The effort was in response to the lack of available EMT technicians and other qualified volunteers at the Lake Placid Ambulance Service..
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Town of North Elba Board, Councilman Jack Favro provided some background for the media. “Over the weekend, from 6pm to 6am, a message went out looking for people to cover for the ambulance,’ He said, “They needed a paramedic, a driver, and then hopefully a backup crew.” In the end, they were able to find coverage and the Village of Lake Placid was able to provide coverage by placing an ambulance at the fire station. Basically what’s happening in the Town of North Elba is that the Ambulance Service is having trouble finding staff, whether volunteers or paid drivers to cover over the weekend.. They’re also struggling with finding a crew to provide backup at the building while the first crew is out on a call..
North Elba Supervisor Robi Politi says this drop in volunteerism is a concern, especially during a weekend with Summit Lacrosse in the community.. “It’s our second largest event each summer. We had over 12,000 people in the community in addition to people that live here, and when you have those kinds of numbers, it’s a good thing to have an ambulance available. It’s a better thing to have two ambulances. Unfortunately,” Politi said, “We had neither.”
Following their meeting, we asked Supervisor Politi to expand on the issue, He says it’s not just the ambulance services in this region dealing with this issue. The requirement for certification and training in the state is affecting fire departments, and he added that they have an immense problem, because they’re all losing volunteers as a result of the certification requirements.
The training alone, Politi added is upwards of 50 hours a year if not more in some cases.. and much of that is three hours at a time each week in Albany, or Syracuse.. which creates real problems for residents of the North Country.. The town of North Elba, as with the village of Lake Placid is already making a contribution to the Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Service.. and even with these stipends, it’s difficult to find Certified Drivers, EMT and paramedics to fully staff the facility and provide an appropriate level of coverage.. Councilman Favro says to cover 12 hours of service, from 6am to 6pm.. you’re looking at a $130,000 per year expense for the paramedics and a part time driver. Around the Clock service, without the drivers brings the total even higher.. but the real issue isn’t the cost in this case, it’s finding the right people and then people who are willing to make the commitment to get the certification which again Favro says is two or three nights a week for 6 to 8 months.. with travel included.. Ultimately, the state’s attempt to make certification better, has made it worse, and staffing emergency ambulance services and fire companies in villages and towns across the North Country is becoming more and more problematic as the overall number of volunteers continues to drop as a result….