Eastern battalion fire departments support Monroe Ambulance plan

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 March 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Monroe Ambulance is seeking state permission to have an ambulance stationed in eastern Orleans County. The proposal would decrease ambulance response times, company officials said.

ALBION – Leaders of the eastern battalion, the fire companies and departments in eastern Orleans County, gave strong support to a proposal by Monroe Ambulance to have an ambulance stationed in Orleans County.

“We 100 percent support Monroe Ambulance,” Bob Freida, chief of the Clarendon Fire Company, said during a public hearing Monday about the Monroe Ambulance plan.

Monroe Ambulance said it would keep at least one ambulance in eastern Orleans at the Fancher-Hulberton-Murray fire hall. Right now the company tends to keeps two ambulances about 3 miles from the county line in the Brockport area.

Monroe Ambulance, because it wants to be stationed in Orleans and it isn’t based in the county, needs the state Department of Health to sign off on the request. Monroe Ambulance submitted more than 1,500 pages as part of a certificate of need. That application was the focus of a public hearing Monday with the Big Lakes Regional EMS Council.

“It’s our belief that service at this time has been exceptional,” Pete Hendrickson, chief of the Holley Fire Department, said about Monroe Ambulance.

The Holley Emergency Squad split off from the Holley Fire Department in 2003. The Emergency Squad has about 300 calls a year, but can only handle 20 percent of them with their own EMTs and drivers, said Ron Meiers, president of the Holley Emergency Squad.

He expects the Emergency Squad will discontinue in the next year due to a shortage of a volunteers and the need to upgrade an 11-year-old ambulance. The group doesn’t have the money for a new ambulance, he said. Right now the squad has three active drivers and five active EMTs, but many of them work outside the community.

Meiers praised Monroe Ambulance for being on scene quickly for emergency medical calls in Holley. Meiers said Monroe Ambulance could be faster to calls in eastern Orleans if it was permitted to keep an ambulance in Orleans County.

Monroe Ambulance responds to 600 calls in eastern Orleans on a mutual aid system, and those calls have been increasing in recent years as the local departments struggle with volunteer manpower, said Michael Bove, Monroe Ambulance assistant chief and project manager for the eastern Orleans proposal.

Bob Freida, chief of the Clarendon Fire Company, speaks in support of Monroe Ambulance’s application to park an ambulance in eastern Orleans County.

Monroe Ambulance currently keeps ambulances in western Monroe that respond to calls in Clarendon, Holley, Murray and Kendall, Bove said during a public hearing at the Orleans County Emergency Management Center on Countyhouse Road.

Another ambulance provider wants to be the primary provider for eastern Orleans. Central Orleans Volunteer Ambulance based in Albion said it would commit to putting an ambulance in Holley. COVA leaders said the organization should be given preference for the ambulance services because it is based within the county.

“If we have to put a rig or a substation in Holley that is what we’ll do,” said Kevin Sheehan, vice president of the COVA board of directors. “There is no call we can’t handle.”

COVA has three fully equipped ambulances and a trained crew that responds to calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said Wade Schwab, president of the COVA board of directors. COVA will add a fourth ambulance if it is approved to provide primary ambulance service for eastern Orleans.

Monroe Ambulance has already submitted its certificate of need to serve that section of the county. COVA is preparing its application.

The eastern Orleans fire department leaders said 90 percent of their patients go to hospitals in Monroe County. With Monroe Ambulance the local departments also can meet Monroe partway going east towards Rochester. With COVA, the fire officials said that group is coming from the opposite direction, and the local fire departments might have to wait for a COVA crew to show up and transport the patients.

Schwab said COVA is willing to have an ambulance on the eastern end of the county, which will speed up the responses. He said some of the eastern Orleans fire officials work for Monroe Ambulance and may feel an obligation to back that company, not only for the certificate of need but in requesting ambulance services. He worries Monroe Ambulance crews could be dispatched from Rochester rather than from COVA.

“I don’t think we’re getting the full consideration for providing service in our own county,” Schwab said.

Albion is about 10 miles from Holley. Monroe Ambulance’s crews in Brockport are closer than that. Gary Sicurella, a Fancher-Hulberton-Murray firefighter, said state officials shouldn’t look at which county the ambulance provider is based when determining which company is picked to provide primary services in eastern Orleans.

The focus should be on which ambulance company can provide the best service with the quickest response time. He said Monroe Ambulance has proven itself, working well with the eastern Orleans firefighters.

“If I have a patient I want the best and fastest care,” Sicurella said during the hearing. “I don’t care where it’s coming from.”

The Big Lakes Regional EMS Council will make a recommendation about the Monroe Ambulance CON to state officials, which will then make a final decision.