In an effort to combat the need for more volunteers for emergency medical services in Schoharie County, supervisors Friday morning agreed to put in $64,000 in next year's budget to hire part-time emergency workers.
Supervisors agreed to have Mike Hartzel, the director of the Office of Emergency Services, put the funding in his budget for 2017. The increase in spending would then go to the finance committee and budget officer before going to the full board for approval.
Mr. Hartzel told supervisors Friday that there is a great need in the county to hire part-time EMTs and part-time advanced life support workers.
The part-time EMTs, probably between six and eight, would be hired to cover between 6am to 6pm from Monday through Friday, according to Mr. Hartzel.
The EMTs would be assigned to MEVAC and Cobleskill, he added. MEVAC covers four towns, including the southern end of the county, while Cobleskill covers the largest town in the county.
Though they may be assigned to MEVAC and Cobleskill, the assignments are flexible and the EMTs would move throughout the county as needed and would respond to mutual aid calls.
The daytime hours during the work week are the most difficult to cover for emergency squads, Mr. Hartzel explained. Most people are at work and it is sometimes difficult to field a crew for emergency calls.
The cost for the part-time EMTs would range from $68,640 for the year at $11 an hour, to $81,000 a year for a salary of $13 per hour.
The cost for two part-time ALS workers would be about $35,300, Mr. Hartzel said. The part-timers would work about 20 hours a week each.
The total cost for the new hires would be about $104,000, but the final cost to the county would be $64,000. Mr. Hartzel explained that $40,000 would come from reimbursements from the squads that charge for ambulance calls through health insurance.
It is likely that the reimbursements will be $100 per call, Mr. Hartzel added.
MEVAC, Cobleskill, Scho-Wright, and Richmondville charge for calls through a patient's health insurance, he said.
The new part-time ALS workers would give the EMS coordinator time to recruit more volunteers for the emergency squads, Mr. Hartzel told supervisors.
The discussions began with MEVAC officials, but the lack of volunteers is a county-wide problem, Mr. Hartzel added.
The plan is not designed to take away anything from the current volunteers but to augment their services, Mr. Hartzel said.
There is no overtime budget for the EMS department and no backup for vacations, according to Mr. Hartzel.
Supervisors were strongly in favor of the plan.
Phil Skowfoe of Fulton noted that if the county needed to have a private emergency squad, the costs would be much higher.
"If we save one life, it's well worth the money," added Pete Coppolo of Middleburgh.