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EMS merger pitched

Report recommends Bethlehem, Delmar combo, but does not name savings

Delmar EMS covers the Delmar, Elsmere and Slingerlands fire districts. A new report recommends merging Bethlehem and Delmar EMS.

Delmar EMS covers the Delmar, Elsmere and Slingerlands fire districts. A new report recommends merging Bethlehem and Delmar EMS. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— “Regardless, this town is ours and the programs we are doing in the town should be supportive of the town,” he said.

Both sides seem willing to merge, but feel more time is needed.

“Bethlehem Ambulance is and has been amenable to any process that benefits the residents of the town — including a merger —but we hope that such a merger is allowed to be done carefully and deliberately and in a way that keeps patient care the top priority,” said Bethlehem EMS President Timothy Leach.

Delmar EMS Chief Operating Officer Steve Kroll said the agency is ready to begin working with Bethlehem EMS on answering calls as a single unit as of Jan. 1. The major challenge will be operationally integrating how the two agencies work, which he feels will take time.

“I think it is important to know that we have been talking together for years about ways to do things better together and this is a natural evolution of that process,” he said. “We think the emphasis the town is placing on (merging) right now is good and no one should view the EMS personnel as obstructing this process.”

Kroll said the town and taxpayers have been reaping the benefits of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of volunteer time. He said many volunteers have day jobs and families, so it can’t be expected for the consolidation to happen overnight.

Daily and Hannigan said they know it is unrealistic to expect a full merger of the two agencies within three months.

“The one thing I want to make sure comes across crystal clear is in no way, shape or form, is there any intention of this report denigrating the time, effort and passion of the volunteers who have been serving our community,” said Daily.

The Board of Ambulance Commissioners recommended the town apply for a temporary, two-year Certificate of Need so the two agencies could start providing services to the whole town.

Uniform training and equipment would begin to take place after a plan is formed. That would take time, as would negotiating a new contract for merged coverage.

“We want to share the best of what we do with our colleagues and they will bring their knowledge to us so we can learn as a whole,” said Kroll. “This is going to lead us to have one of the best EMS agencies a town of our size can have.”

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