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Will no charges mean no ambulance?


NEW LEBANON–Lebanon Valley Protective Association firefighter and former emergency medical technician Bud Godfroy is concerned. “Somehow it needs to get out to the residents of New Lebanon and Canaan residents east of County Route 5 that there is a major restructuring of the ambulance coverage coming about,” he says.

The LVPA Ambulance Service charges for the calls that it makes in New Lebanon and half of Canaan. But the ambulance service is part of the fire company, and state law does not allow volunteer fire companies to charge for their services. So the ambulance squad cannot continue charging if it remains part of the fire company.

The end of charges will leave a huge hole in the ambulance squad’s budget, and members of the squad have asked New Lebanon and Canaan town boards to make up the shortfall of $100,000.

That solution doesn’t seem likely, so Mr. Godfroy has proposed a different approach. He is forming a committee to set up an all- volunteer rescue squad, consisting “minimally” of 14 EMTs serving 12-hour shifts. He said via email that the “optimum” is an ambulance crew in the station that could turn out quickly enough  to meet state requirement of a response time of five minutes or less.

Canaan Town Supervisor Rick Keaveney attended the first meeting of the committee and said he was “surprised” to see that there were not many people from the LVPA there. But he doesn’t believe that an all-volunteer company is feasible because of the overall lack of volunteers in the area.

The squad plans to “present some numbers” at a meeting at the Canaan Fire House Thursday, April 29, Mr. Keaveney said. “From my point of view it comes down to the numbers.” His community will not be satisfied, he said, with “the same thing we had before at a lot higher expense.”

Any contract for ambulance service with LVPA, he said, would also have to include “some indemnification from their past billing procedures,” in the event that an insurance company or an individual demands a refund of monies paid as a result of the illegal billing “or possible fines, he said. When he made that point at the meeting, he said the LVPA’s response was to refuse to talk about it.

Mr. Keaveney has continued to reach out to Chatham Rescue to cover the half of the town now served by the LVPA, but he believes Chatham is waiting to see the outcome with the LVPA talks.

To provide the only basic rescue support in Columbia County, LVPA’s annual budget for 2009 reported net expenses of $343,561, with $151,095 for EMT salaries, $103,456 for drivers and $28,840 for “ALS Intercepts.” ALS stands for advanced life support, a higher level of service.

LVPA Ambulance Captain Mary Young has repeatedly declined to talk to The Columbia Paper, saying in an email, “This company does not run like others, everyone of us is involved in every decision that is made and that takes time to get accurate information for dissemination and for responses.”

The meeting at the Canaan Fire House begins at 7 p.m.

Questions concerning the new committee can be directed to Bud Godfroy at (518) 337-0109 or .

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