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New Ambulance EMS crews could become quite costly

The OBSERVER's View

A new county-owned ambulance in the north county will play an important role in backstopping volunteer fire departments in the region.

Chautauqua County recently obtained a new ambulance by giving the village of Silver Creek $5,000 a year in Advance Life Support credits for six years to pay the $30,000 cost of the ambulance. Silver Creek saves $5,000 a year and Chautauqua County’s fly car program gets an ambulance without paying $30,000 up front.

John Griffith, former county emergency medical services coordinator, Marv Cummings, Silver Creek Village Board member, and all of those at the county and village level deserve credit for their work on the agreement. It’s a good one for everyone involved, at least in the short-term.

Long-term, though, adding a second ambulance to the fly car team is starting to look an awful lot like a countywide ambulance service without debate and discussion over creating that new service. We aren’t saying a countywide ambulance backup isn’t needed. As volunteer fire departments struggle to maintain enough members to respond at all times, ambulance response has become overwhelming for the paid services available in the county. That was the whole reason for the fly car system in the first place.

But ambulances need crews, and those crews cost money. If the county is going to get into the ambulance business, even with the best of intentions, then county officials should be up-front about it so the program doesn’t end up expanding to the point it becomes a financial albatross.

Again, we don’t dispute the need for ambulances as part of the county’s fly car system. But we should tread carefully.

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