COVA seeks countywide CON for ambulance services

Photos by Tom Rivers: Barb Morlino, training coordinator for COVA and the Orleans Training Academy, speaks during a public hearing on Thursday about COVA’s request for a countywide certificate of need to provide ambulance services.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 October 2017 at 4:37 pm

ALBION – Central Orleans Volunteer Ambulance is pursuing a certificate of need to provide ambulance services throughout Orleans County.

COVA currently has a CON for the central Orleans towns of Albion, Barre, Carlton and Gaines. It wants to expand the CON to eastern and western Orleans, too.

COVA officials said the CON application shouldn’t be viewed as a takeover for eastern Orleans which is currently primarily served by Monroe Ambulance or western Orleans which is served by the Medina Fire Department.

“This would provide for seamless backup,” said Jason Spencer, COVA’s director operations. “We don’t see any radical changes.”

COVA has three ambulances in Albion. Two of them are pictured Thursday evening at 239 South Main St.

Right now, COVA needs to be requested to respond to a call outside its primary service area.

The Big Lakes Regional EMS Council (REMSCO) held a public hearing on Thursday evening for COVA’s CON application at COVA’s headquarters, 239 South Main St.

Four COVA officials spoke in favor of the application, while Monroe Ambulance opposed it.

Mike Bove, vice president of Monroe Ambulance, speaks against COVA’s request for a countywide CON. Monroe has the CON to serve eastern Orleans as primary ambulance provider.

Mike Bove, vice president of Monroe Ambulance, said Monroe responds to about 600 calls annually in eastern Orleans with an average response time of 12 minutes, 18 seconds. That is well below the 15-minute threshold for rural communities, he said.

Monroe has had the CON for eastern Orleans for about three years. The ambulance company keeps ambulances in Brockport and responds to 90 percent of the calls in eastern Orleans.

“No one can get to 100 percent of the calls, which is why we have mutual aid,” Bove said at the hearing.

Monroe has 28 ambulances and 284 employees. The company can shift resources to Orleans when needed, Bove said.

He opposed the COVA expansion because Bove said there isn’t a need for COVA to have a CON in eastern Orleans.

Laurie Schwab, COVA director, said the Albion-based ambulance company is willing to add resources to better serve eastern Orleans.

COVA currently has a 7-minute average response time for calls in its four towns. COVA is willing to put an ambulance in Holley, which should significantly reduce the response time in eastern Orleans, said Jason Spencer, COVA’s director of operations.

Laurie Schwab, COVA’s executive director, speaks during the public hearing. She said the organization has the resources to expand to serve the county.

Wade Schwab, president of COVA’s board of directors, has been with COVA for 26 years. The organization has changed from being run by volunteers in 1979 to having paid paramedics and drivers. Schwab said COVA has proven its dedication to the community after nearly 40 years of operation.

Barb Morlino, COVA’s training coordinator, said COVA has a training program in place so more residents can serve the community with emergency medical care.

A county-wide CON would allow COVA “the ability to serve residents of Orleans County if the need arises,” Morlino said.

The Big Lakes REMSCO includes the counties of Genesee, Orleans and Niagara. That group will review the CON application and make a decision. That ruling on the CON can be appealed.

If the CON is approved for COVA, the organization wouldn’t automatically become the primary ambulance provider county-wide. COVA would have to reach out to each municipality for a contract.

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