SACKETS HARBOR – In a recent letter to residents of the Village of Sackets Harbor and the Town of Hounsfield, the Sackets Harbor Fire Company asked for donations for its 2021 ambulance fundraiser.
The Sackets Harbor Fire Company provides free emergency medical care and ambulance service to everyone in the village and town. With hundreds of calls per year, the Sackets Harbor Ambulance serves the village, town and surrounding areas. Firefighters and emergency medical personnel are all volunteers.
Comprised of 11 emergency medical technicians and a handful of emergency medical services students, as well as several firefighters and medical support staff, the agency never charges patients for medical aid or transportation. .
Lt. EMS Niklas F. Brazie, who has been in the service for about four years and served as a lieutenant for the past six months, saw how the COVID-19 pandemic affected local ambulance services. While he doesn’t know the exact numbers, things like gowns, masks, gloves, and cleaning supplies have been expensive.
“We would like to have a cushion because obviously things break and the equipment is very expensive,” he said. “We just bought a new heart monitor and it cost us about $ 18,000, so it’s a great success. And then the stretchers are $ 10,000 more; it gets very expensive very quickly.
The service, run by the Sackets Harbor Volunteer Fire Department, receives no funding from the city, town or fire department and no tax revenue is used to support the agency. The current COVID-19 pandemic has posed many new challenges for EMS volunteers, placing a significant financial burden on the agency due to increased purchases of personal protective equipment and decontamination supplies, as well as a considerably increased volume of calls.
“Obviously, we are still in a pandemic like last year, and the price of equipment has skyrocketed completely,” said Grayden J. Brunet, EMS coordinator. “The availability of equipment has also decreased, so it is certainly much more difficult for a small agency that is not outsourced to the village or town for funding, like us, to be able to buy the equipment we need to provide safe care. our residents.
The provision of EMS services to the village and town is not included in the budget of the fire department – it is an additional expense that the service has always paid for.
The Guilfoyle ambulance service responds from the town of Watertown. But sometimes, if Guilfoyle isn’t available, another ambulance can be 20 minutes away, so it’s important that the Sackets Harbor office is ready to answer calls.
Each emergency response has a cost to the agency. General operating costs for day-to-day functions such as emergency calls, training, and the purchase and replenishment of equipment still exist during the pandemic, and the agency still has a duty to ensure it has efficient medical equipment for patients.
The service has already received around 230 calls this year. Last year, the ministry responded to 257 EMS calls. At the current rate, he expects to exceed that number this year, averaging around 20 to 30 calls per month.
“We just got approval to purchase a $ 20,000 Lifepak surveillance device,” Brunet said. “It’s a big purchase, but it will definitely have a positive impact on our community. “
In the past, the generosity of the community has helped the agency operate, allowing it to set aside money for future investments in the ambulance service. There are no paid employees and 100% of income comes from donations.
With the shortage of health care providers in the region and hospitals being more frequently disrupted, the advanced resuscitation services that the agency normally relies on have had to rely more on Sackets.
“It’s kind of a ripple effect,” Brunet said. “The Guilfoyle and Town of Watertown Ambulance Service backed out of hospitals because wait times were so long and they had to respond to hospitals further away, meaning they didn’t were unable to cover their own calls. We are called more and more for help to cover calls in surrounding areas outside of our own district.
The ministry upgraded an ambulance to a newer model in 2018 and is now saving for the next replacement vehicle when needed. The cost of a lightly used ambulance is around $ 100,000. Maintenance and supplies cost approximately $ 15,000 per year.
“We are now responding to peer support to help cover calls in other districts,” Brunet said. “So the situation kind of turned around and it highlights how important a small volunteer agency can be. “
Those wishing to donate can send to: Sackets Harbor Fire Co. Ambulance Fund at PO Box 171, Sackets Harbor, NY 13685.