OSWEGO COUNTY – “One Mission: One Team” is the theme of this year’s Emergency Medical Services Week, taking place May 19 through 25.
“This is a time to recognize those who we take for granted, our EMS workers,” said Zach Menter, vice president of Oswego County Ambulance Service based in Fulton. “People just assume that rescue and ambulance will always show up.”
Oswego County’s EMS providers – including certified first responders, emergency medical technicians, advanced EMTs and paramedics, all of whom staff ambulance and fire department rescue vehicles – responded 20,000 times last year.
Mike Montgomery, executive director of Southern Oswego Volunteer Ambulance Corps based in Central Square, pointed out, “What we do takes a lot of dedication, equipment, training and money. EMS Week allows us to thank the EMS people who staff the rescues and ambulances every day of every year.”
Initial and continuing training run into the hundreds of hours.
“It takes an extraordinary level of dedication to obtain an EMS certification and maintain it. Our county is very fortunate to have these providers available continuously,” added Montgomery.
EMS Week is also an opportunity to remind the public that EMS resources are finite.
Jim Jones, county EMS coordinator, reminds the public that when they call 911, they are requesting an emergency resource.
“EMS service should not be requested for non-emergencies. When EMS is called for non-emergencies, we are not available for real emergencies” said Jones. “Arriving at the emergency department in an ambulance doesn’t get you seen by a doctor any quicker. We take our share of folks from our ambulances and put them in the waiting room of the hospital. That indicates an inappropriate use of the emergency service.”
Oswego County residents have a lot to be thankful for, according to Norm Wallis, executive director of Northern Oswego County Ambulance.
“We rely extraordinarily little on ambulances from other counties,” said Wallis. “Our EMS providers perform service in a truly outstanding fashion. The quality and quantity of EMS service in this county is excellent.”
“We want the public to be aware of everything that we do,” Menter said. “It isn’t just bringing people to the emergency room. EMS providers transport people between hospitals and provide EMS for fires, hazardous material and other emergency scenes, as well as sporting events, parades, marathons and other public gatherings.”
The quality and dedication of individuals in the EMS field is outstanding, the corps directors agree.
“We have paid providers and volunteers, a large influx of young people and those who have almost 40 years of service,” said Montgomery. “Some volunteer for decades, while others volunteer initially to get certified and move to a career in EMS.”
Five corps in Oswego County – SOVAC, North Shore Volunteer Squad in Cleveland, Donald McFee Ambulance Service in Mexico, NOCA and Student Association Volunteer Ambulance Corps (SAVAC) at SUNY Oswego – started as all-volunteer ambulance services and continue to retain a number of volunteers.
“At SOVAC, five shifts a week are covered by volunteers,” Montgomery added.
“There is no difference in the skill and dedication between paid EMTs and volunteers,” said Jones. “It’s all about servicing the public the best way we can.”
EMS is not an easy career, the corps directors agree.
“The reimbursement which the corps receive doesn’t pay well for the people who work in the field,” Menter said. “We certainly realize we can’t put a price on saving a life. The dedication these professionals have means a lot to the people in leadership roles and to the patients and people who depend on EMTs.”
“To all the employees and volunteers in the field, we want to say not only ‘thank you for the excellent job you do,’ but also ‘continue looking forward into the future,’” said Montgomery. “They all make that extra effort to get certified and recertified, and continue to train. When the phone rings or the pager goes off, (they) come to help. They’ve been doing an excellent job.”
“Our message to the public,” Montgomery continued, “is that they need us and we need them. We need the public to be educated on when to call 911.”
All of the seven corps and the fire service “do what we can to help each other,” said Montgomery. “We’re working together for the people of Oswego County.”
For more information on emergency medical services in Oswego county, contact EMS Coordinator Jones at 591-9110.
SHOULD YOU DRIVE OR CALL AN AMBULANCE?
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions about a person experiencing a medical emergency, or if you are unsure, it’s best to call an ambulance, even if you think you can get to the hospital faster by yourself:
• Does the person’s condition appear to be life-threatening?
• Could the person’s condition worsen and become life-threatening on the way to the hospital?
• Could moving the person cause further injury?
• Does the person need the skills or equipment employed by paramedics or emergency medical technicians?
From the American College of Emergency Physicians, “Medical Emergencies: What You Need to Know”