Deal would hire private firm while keeping volunteers
In its final meeting before four new members are sworn in next month, the Beacon City Council on Monday (Dec. 20) will vote to fund round-the-clock ambulance coverage for the first time.
City officials included $200,000 for ambulance service in Beacon’s 2022 budget, which the council adopted earlier this month, although it was undecided how the money would be distributed. City Administrator Chris White said this week that $150,000 would be used to hire Ambulnz, a private company that Putnam County also intends to use in 2022.
The proposed agreement, which provides advanced life support (ALS) service with a paramedic on board, would last five years.
The remaining $50,000 would be sent to the nonprofit Beacon Volunteer Ambulance Corps (BVAC), which has served the city for 63 years and provides basic life support service. That agreement allows for four, one-year renewals.
An ambulance with a paramedic can provide immediate treatment for cardiac emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes, while an ambulance with basic life support is staffed by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) trained only to stabilize victims until they can reach a hospital.
BVAC came under criticism in July when Wappinger Supervisor Richard Thurston contacted White, saying his town’s paramedics, under mutual-aid agreements, had already been dispatched to the area covered by BVAC (which includes Beacon and the Glenham, Dutchess Junction and Chelsea fire districts) twice as many times as in all of 2020.
The town could no longer afford to expend “taxpayer-funded resources” outside of its coverage zone, Thurston said, a stand quickly echoed by four other municipalities, including Philipstown. That led Beacon to consider privatizing its municipal service.
The issue is multi-pronged. The health care industry is facing a dearth of workers and volunteer companies like BVAC have struggled to offer competitive wages. BVAC submitted a proposal to the city to add ALS coverage, which it had provided from 2009 to 2016, but it would have cost many times more than hiring Ambulnz, White told the council during a Dec. 13 workshop.
“We’re looking not to get rid of BVAC; we’re looking to try to keep them relevant and as part of the equation, but to make sure we’re covered” with on-time responses for all calls, including those requiring ALS. Ambulnz and BVAC are discussing how the companies will respond to basic life support calls, White said.
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