Guilderland sets up ambulance service with rig for obese

GUILDERLAND — On Tuesday, the town board here unanimously agreed to establish an ambulance operating service. Guilderland will purchase a bariatric ambulance, to handle severely obese patients, which will be shared with Albany County.

Donald Doynow, an emergency-room physician who currently oversees Guilderland’s advanced life support, told the board that, before 1986, basic life support in Guilderland was supplied by two volunteer services — the Western Turnpike squad and the Altamont squad — staffed by emergency medical technicians.

He contrasted 140 hours of training required for an EMT with that for a paramedic, which, at 1,400 hours, he said, “takes about a year.”

In 1986, the town increased its care with seven police paramedics for advanced life support, working from fly cars. They became “too busy,” Doynow said, trying to combine police and ambulance work, so emergency medical service workers became full-time jobs.

Currently, Guilderland Emergency Medical Services, a subdivision of the Guilderland Police Department, overseen by Captain Daniel McNally, has 20 paramedics — 15 are full-time and five are part-time.

“The calls now are continuous,” Doynow said, and volunteers are overworked.

Western Turnpike has become a fully paid service and Altamont has “a few volunteers,” Doynow said.

Patients sometimes need to wait for back-up ambulances from the University at Albany or from Colonie, Doynow said, citing a case a year ago where a patient had to wait an hour and a half for a bariatric ambulance.

“We can’t really wait for an ambulance if we don’t have them,” said Doynow.

Alan Fitzpatrick, president of the Western Turnpike Rescue Squad, tried to pin down how many EMTs would be hired to cover the 14 shifts planned for the new bariatric ambulance and questioned why a Western Turnpike EMT couldn’t be used.

He was finally told that the town’s ambulance will be staffed by 10 part-time emergency medical technicians, hired from a Civil Service list.

Supervisor Peter Barber said that delayed response times have been discussed for two years. “The town ambulance will be staffed by town employees,” Barber said.

Fitzpatrick also questioned the cost to taxpayers and asked where the new ambulance would be housed.

“We have an understanding with the fire districts,” said Barber. “We will find a home.”

Members of Altamont’s rescue squad were not at the town meeting.


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