BETHLEHEM A new report recommends the merging of Bethlehem’s volunteer ambulance agencies by the end of the year, but the two groups targeted feel the timetable is unrealistic.
Michael Daily and Terry Hannigan, two representatives of the town District Board of Ambulance Commissioners, presented their findings at a Bethlehem Town Board meeting earlier this month. The report found savings could be realized if Bethlehem and Delmar EMS were to combine forces, but the amount that would be saved is still unknown.
The consolidation of the transporting agencies “would decrease redundancy, allow improvement in operational efficiency and improve patient care by reducing response times,” according to the report.
Town Board Councilman George Lenhardt, who is chairman of the Board of Ambulance Commissioners, said in a later interview the board was created under former Supervisor Sam Messina in July of 2011. The town was seeing an increase in EMS coverage and Bethlehem coverage and Bethlehem now spends $1.3 million a year on emergency medical services from Bethlehem and Delmar Volunteer Ambulance Services, the Western Turnpike Rescue squad and the Albany County Sheriff’s Office.
“The board was formed to get those numbers to decrease and to make sure all citizens were receiving the same quality in care,” Lenhardt said.
The board found a “great variation” exists between services provided in the southern and northern parts of the town. Bethlehem EMS covers the Selkirk Fire District and Delmar EMS covers the Delmar, Elsmere and Slingerlands fire districts, but the areas technically overlap. The Board of Commissioners found the two agencies to differ in the “management of data and financials, as well as in their operational capabilities.”
The report recommends the two agencies merge by the end of the year. The plan has been met with some resistance and when asked why, Daily said it could be a case of “maintaining your own fiefdom.”