As COVA gets ‘critically close’ to ending, little response from local officials

Posted 14 August 2022 at 8:07 am


To the residents of Albion, Carlton, Gaines and Barre, I am a lifelong resident of the Town of Gaines and current President of the COVA Ambulance Board of Directors. I am writing this letter partly as President but most importantly, as a resident. You can either choose to read and ignore, or share and take action…but you need to know.

COVA is critically close to closing its doors permanently.

As with all EMS agencies nationwide, insurance payments are at an all-time low and relying on donations is simply not feasible. With insurance claims paying on average 20% of what is billed, the days of a nonprofit community-based ambulance company surviving off of insurance payments, fund raising and donations are over.

If we do not get help, COVA will be gone.

Over the past 3.5 years we have contacted every town in our service area, the Village of Albion, and the County Legislators as well our NYS Assemblyman and Senator. We have met with their attorneys, spoken at board meetings, written letters, begged, turned in power point presentations (only to be asked months later to “please give them a power point presentation”) and made innumerable phone calls. We are grateful for the support from Assemblyman Hawley as well as County Legislator Don Allport, Barre Town Supervisor Sean Pogue and County Legislator Skip Draper, but most of the others have shown little to no response, and these four men can not help us alone.

We have been discouraged at the lack of urgency and interest seen in some of our community leaders, some of whom actually slept through our presentation. There has been an EMS task force meeting since January and we have been told by members on that task force that there has been no progression whatsoever.

Every meeting we have attended has ended with “we will talk this over and get back to you.” There is currently “tens of millions of dollars” of Covid relief money available for areas of need. In April I presented a letter to the County Legislators asking for some of the available Covid relief money to help purchase a new ambulance as two of ours are very old and cost thousands per year in repairs and maintenance. COVA was on the front line of Covid servicing the people of Orleans County every, single day. We never got a response to the letter.

We have tried to be polite and professional as we hear rumors of a “county funded” agency coming in to take over. If these rumors are true please be aware that it will cost you!!! It will cost millions to get started and to maintain yearly and this cost will be passed on to the taxpayers.

We have presented figures showing that with as little as $50 per year per household, COVA would survive and would actually be able to pay decent wages, have reliable rigs and update aging equipment. We are not asking for much when you figure most of us are paying at least 3 times that much for a library tax! Yet we hear nothing…no help.

Let me answer the naysayers before you can complain about ambulance costs. Our doors are always open. We would be happy to sit down with any concerned citizen or patient who wants to understand the cost of running an ambulance service. With equipment costs, insurance, fuel, wages, medical supplies and medications always on the rise it is a sad reality that it is expensive to operate an ambulance service that provides all levels of care. We welcome anyone, anytime to stop by and we will gladly show you why we bill what we do.

As a person with older parents the thought of possibly having no ambulance company in our district is terrifying. Listening to the calls on the monitor and knowing that one day soon those calls may go unanswered and thinking about the people who will have to race their own loved one to the hospital emergency room in order to save their life keeps me awake at night.

For the sake of our community we need to be taken seriously and we need to be taken seriously NOW. We do not have time to wait until the next budget meeting or board meeting. We have been waiting for 3.5 years and time is running out quickly. Those tens of millions of dollars sitting in Covid relief need to be disbursed to the companies who were there for us during Covid.

And COVA was there for us as it has been for 41 years. If our elected officials choose to sit on this and ignore this, COVA WILL BE GONE. I cannot make it any clearer than that.

Again, you can choose to read this and ignore it, or you can choose to read it and take action. For the safety of our residents, our families, your families we plead with you for a final time to take action now.


Jennifer Stilwell

President of Board of Directors for COVA EMS Ambulance